Relationship problems – what you can do about it
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Trish Walker MBACP(Accred), PG.Dip.Couns, M.Phil., B.Sc.Psych.,
5th March, 2013
Are you experiencing difficulties with one or more of your close relationships (partner, parent, child or friend)? Does the other person seem unwilling to take steps to address this? Perhaps it is time to look at yourself and how you interact with those close to you.
There are a wide range of issues that can cause problems in a relationship. For example – abuse, betrayal, dishonesty, jealousy, possessiveness, selfishness, indifference.
Through counselling we can only change ourselves, however, if we are able to be open, honest and communicate more effectively with others, then they in turn may react in a more healthy way to us leading to stronger, closer relationships.
By really knowing yourself and your wants and needs, counselling may also help you to determine if a particular relationship is really what you want.
Before we can fully accept the love of another person and have a good safe relationship, we need to feel good about ourselves and accept how we are. Emotions such as sadness, anger or depression can affect relationships. The root of jealousy is low self-esteem – not being able to accept that those close to you really value you. Counselling may be able to help you with issues of self-esteem, acceptance and trust.
Recognising issues in yourself and others
Perhaps arguments have become a way of life for you and those close to you? Counselling may help you to recognise patterns of thoughts/feelings/behaviour in yourself (for example possessiveness, selfishness, indifference) that can negatively impact and eventually destroy relationships. It may be important to understand where these issues originate from – often from way back in childhood - and to come to terms with the past and find ways of changing our perceptions moving forwards.
Through exploring relationship issues you may become more able to recognise if someone is abusing you or maybe become aware of problems within yourself and how you interact with others.
It is also important to become aware of the difference between privacy (healthy need/entitlement for space) and secrecy (ranging from lack of openness to deception); because of our past histories it may be difficult for us to be open with others, yet it is important to keep partners in touch with what we are doing and also to ask the same of them.
When we feel angry or upset it is easy to be so determined to put our viewpoint across that we totally fail to listen to the other person. Yet listening is frequently the key to resolving conflicts. Listening enables us to understand how the other person feels about the situation (and about us) and gives us clues to where there may be problems due to something that we are doing or unconsciously communicating and this can lead to us reconsidering things and be more willing to change.
It’s easy when we feel unappreciated or hurt by someone to lash out and try to hurt them back and end up in a vicious circle. By being able to own your feelings about a situation and communicate how you feel rather than retaliate when you feel hurt, your partner may be able to see that they are not being judged and try to understand how you feel and how they should behave to prevent this negative cycle.
It’s also easy to make assumptions about what your partner is thinking without checking it out. If you can explain when and why you feel uncomfortable, you open the path for communication rather than conflict.
It is also important to recognise when it is a good time to have a productive conversation and maybe agreeing to postpone serious talking until you are in a calmer frame of mind. If you feel the issue cannot be postponed then it may be possible to agree to discuss it in a controlled way, for example, each partner having a set time (e.g. ten minutes) to air their views without interruption. Good communication will ensure that problems are not left to fester and escalate.
By improved communication (listening to the other person, being assertive about your needs etc.) you and those close to you, may be better able to understand each others needs and respect each other rather than having rows which may not solve anything and may leave you both feeling angry, sad and misunderstood.
Where does it come from?
How we are in your relationships as children or how we see our family behaving can have a significant impact on how we conduct ourselves in relationships as adults.
For example, if a child learns to become a ‘pleaser’ in order to gain affection they may unwittingly carry this behaviour through to adulthood and find themselves in co-dependent relationships where they become totally pre-occupied with caring for a partner with emotional problems such as addiction.
Being able to trust others and be ourselves
Through having a good trusting relationship via counselling it may help us to trust those close to us and to be able to communicate how we feel to them.
For any good relationship it is essential to let the other person know our real self – being open and honest about our vulnerabilities and any issues we may have with trust and affection. This may lead to our partners also being open and honest with us and so strengthen the bond
Related articles from our experts
Cate Campbell MA, MBACP (Accred), MCOSRT (Accred), MAFT23rd March, 2017
- Reactive and responsive relationships
Graeme Armstrong MBACP21st March, 2017
- How psychodynamic therapy helps to break the cycle of unhealthy relationships
Margery Parsons, d.c.t.p., UKCP reg.20th March, 2017
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