Enhance your relationships with DBT skills

When relationships work they can feel like “heaven” and when they go wrong they might feel like “hell”, leaving us very unhappy, unsettled and low in mood.

The benefits of being in a healthy relationship often lead to a sense of stability in life, self-confidence and a good dose of “self-liking.” From this basis, many other aspects of life can become enhanced such as general health, career development and friendships with other people.

What are the difficulties that people experience in relationships…

Typically, after an initial period of “really good relating often referred to as the honeymoon period”, familiarity starts to set in and tolerance levels may diminish. This may result in increasing arguments and disagreements. However, these are not necessarily problematic because two people with different backgrounds are probably bound to have differences of opinion. The problem is when the relationship cannot find a way to resolve a difficulty so that there is a breakdown in communication and little scope to improve.

There are some useful interpersonal skills that can help you to manage relational strife and these originate from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy or DBT, underpinned by the notion of dialectics. A dialectical perspective involves considering both sides of a situation with the idea that the world is formed of opposites. In a relational context this might mean considering that “love” and “hate” can both exist at the same time, and in this way we learn to manage tension within interpersonal situations. The advantage of learning to do this is that a person has a more decisional balance which may lead to better choices. Here’s an example to demonstrate how dialectical thinking might be applied in a relational dilemma:

Partner A arrives home from work late as his train was delayed. He comes in to find partner B, playing on his PlayStation. It is 8pm and A is hungry and a bit fed up and irritable after the long day and the travel delay. He starts to feel angry that B has not made any effort to cook supper as he is clearly engrossed in a game. However, A also really loves his partner and enjoys the time they spend together.  Given this "love versus angry" stance, partner A does have some choice about how to behave. 

Does he:

Express anger: complaining to B about his selfish behaviour... which will probably lead to some kind of row and an unpleasant evening; or 

Contain anger: avoiding a row and suggesting they order a take away so that he gets food quickly and hopefully some nice time with his partner after a long and challenging day?

Maybe you have experienced something similar and perhaps there were different ways in which you could have responded to a partner, friend, child or parent…

DBT offers practical guidance in managing relational challenges to sustain healthy connections with others. Counselling can help you to understand how DBT skills might enrich relationships in your life.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Claire Sainsbury: Brighton and Hove Counselling

Claire Sainsbury is an integrative counsellor & coach with a special interest in helping people change unhealthy life habits to promote a better quality of living.… Read more

Written by Claire Sainsbury: Brighton and Hove Counselling

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