Common Difficulties In Relationships

Relationships can be difficult to navigate and to manage if we have had some difficult early life experiences in relating to others and being related to. For example if we were often rejected by others in our lives then we have developed a reciprocal role of rejecting others.

There are a few common patterns that we can get into in relationships for fear of being rejected or taken advantage of, these can include:

Fear Of Hurting Other People’s Feelings Trap

Feeling that it is wrong to be angry or aggressive we can be afraid of hurting other people’s feelings so we don’t express our feelings or needs with the result that we are ignored or abused which makes us feel angry but confirms the feeling that it is wrong to be angry.

Can’t Say “No” Trap

Feeling that it is impossible to say “No” to others leads to feeling out of control in relationships. To feel more in control we avoid others by hiding away or letting them down with the result that they get angry and can reject us. We then feel guilty which confirms that we shouldn’t say “No” to others.

Avoiding Upset Trap

Feeling anxious and believing that we mustn’t upset or displease others we avoid upset by doing what they seem to want, anxiously trying to please them. As a result others don’t get upset, we feel relieved but trapped in not upsetting others.

It can be very helpful to recognise these patterns and then to think about how they could be changed.


McCormick, E. (2008). Change for the better: self help through practical psychotherapy.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL1 3YD
Written by Dr Jonathan Hutchins
St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL1 3YD

I am a Consultant Clinical Psychologist who offers online sessions to help to change your life. I provide a confidential and empathic space to help people to address and overcome their concerns. I have extensive training and experience in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and I am a Consultant on...


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