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Date: May 7th, 2013
Title: Don't rock the boat?
“Don’t rock the boat!”…I am sure you have heard that expression before. It, like let sleeping dogs lie are popular expressions that follow from the belief that if a relationship is going well don’t do anything that could jeopardize it. It’s a nice idea. However, when it comes to relationships it may not always be the best idea. Especially when you are trying to grow, strengthen or consolidate the relationship.
In psychotherapy it is not unusual for couples to experience improvement in their relationship after the first several sessions, particularly if there is good and genuine will from both people to make things better. It is also not unusual that couples experience things getting worse in the sessions that follow and begin to lose hope that the relationship can actually improve.
However, it may not be that the relationship is getting worse. It may simply be that because things are feeling better and there is some hope that the couple can now talk about more difficult issues. Talking about difficult issues can make things feel worse. Things they could not even think about discussing before therapy started are now possible because the relationship feels a bit better. This is an example of how rocking the boat can be beneficial. So it’s ok to rock the boat – provided the boat is sturdy enough to handle the rocking and the waters are relatively calm. The sturdier the boat or the calmer the waters, the safer it is to rock. The sturdier and calmer the relationship the more likely it can manage difficult issues.
In fact, the best times to talk about difficult or problematic issues is when the relationship is going well. People are more likely to be receptive to what someone else has to say. People are also more likely to speak about an issue in a way that others can hear. People are also more likely to feel a greater sense of good will in the relationship because things have been going well. It is these factors that will lead to real improvement and growth in the relationship.
KEVIN STAFFORD, M.Sc.
Registered Marriage and Family Therapist
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