Counselling in Wokingham – Finding a Voice

Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 –

This blog is intended to give you a flavour of how I work. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the bottom right of this page

In my work with couples, I quite often encounter situations where it seems that one partner has no voice in the relationship.  This can happen for various reasons, but the most common seem to be :-

  • Their partner is more assertive or holds stronger opinions
  • They feel that their opinions might upset their partner
  • They are scared to voice their opinions because it might lead to an argument
  • They feel that their needs matter less than their partner’s

These reasons can all be intertwined, of course, and other factors may well be involved as well, but let’s look at the four factors above in turn.

Their partner is more assertive or holds stronger opinions.  This links in with an earlier blog post about being “easy-going”.  Because your partner holds stronger opinions, it can just become a habit, and expectation, that they will make the decisions.

They feel that their opinions might upset their partner.  We don’t like to upset our partner, of course, but for some people the desire to look after our partner can become self-destructive.  We need to look after ourselves as well, and if we don’t feel able to say what we’re thinking, the chances are that we will become resentful over time (though sometimes this can take decades!).  Ultimately we are not, and cannot be, responsible for our partner’s feelings – only they can do that.

They are scared to voice their opinions because it might lead to an argument.  This is similar to the point above except that the motivation for holding back our opinions is different.  The silence is caused by a fear – of an argument, or our partner’s anger, even of violence.  But again, in keeping silent, we are trying to manage our partner’s emotions and relegating our own needs.

They feel that their needs matter less than their partner’s.  This reason for silence is often associated with low self-esteem, the feeling that my feelings don’t matter, that my needs are not important.  Sometimes this can leave our partner feeling quite guilty that they always seem to get their way – and also they may feel quite a weight of responsibility that they seem to have to make all the decisions.

When I meet couples for counselling I sometimes see these dynamics in the counselling room.  To take a couple of examples, it may be that one partner tends to do most or all of the talking, or it may be the focus of sessions tends to be about one partner rather than the other.

It can be difficult to change these patterns of behaviour, which may have been going on for the whole term of the relationship – and indeed are quite likely to go back before the relationship – to previous partners, and to childhood experiences.  There are, as always, no magic answers, but the first, and often the most important step, is to recognise what is happening.  Then for the situation to change it will require changes from both parties.  If you don’t have a voice, it will require an effort to state your needs, indeed it may even require quite an effort to think about what your needs are.  And your partner will need to be aware of their behaviour, and to try not to get so upset or angry – to listen to your opinion rather than make snap decisions – to encourage you to find a voice.

About Paul Cockayne

Counsellor, musician, iPhone developer, games-player, cheese-lover....
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