Not being 'good' at relationships

Finding, ending and being in relationships are issues that frequently come up in therapy. Therapists might hear clients say things like:

  • “I’m no good at relationships."
  • “I seem to be attracting abusive partners."
  • “There isn’t anyone out there for me."
  • “I seem to be taking far too long to get over this girlfriend."

Often, the first thing that comes up is a sense of comparison, that “other people are more capable at relationships than me”. This, of course, is a misnomer: idealised relationships exist all around. They are glamorised for entertainment on television and in films. What we perceive in other people’s relationships is often one sided: whether in real life or on social media, couples rarely expose the full depth of what is good and bad in their private lives.

That said, relationships are often where our own psychological “edges” come to light. We might be attracting negative relationships because we have yet to work on our own self-esteem. We may find endings tough, because there is difficulty is letting go, or earlier unprocessed losses are emerging in the here and now. We might be confused about being in a relationship, because our own formative relationships were absent, too close, abusive or emotionless. Unpicking these matters, especially with a trained professional, can lead to inner changes which in turn gives the opportunity for future relationships to be different.

On a deeper level our patterns in relationships, even if they seem like “failure”, may be useful and on a path to transformative healing. To understand this better, it helps to ask the question “what quality am I seeking in another?”. Perhaps we seek stability, or a sense of determination. Or someone is attractive if they’re able give out affection or compassion. If we can identify that which we see in another, therapy can help to find where that quality lies in ourselves. In this way a “failed” relationship is a pointer to some part of our own potential that is seeking expression.

Whichever level you are coming from, be it practical changes, the healing of historical emotions, or a deeper desire to transform your person, counselling and psychotherapy provide a space to examine and unearth insight which leads to change. Indeed, being in therapy is being in a relationship of sorts, with a trained guide who can help you see yourself more clearly. It’s in this most unique of relationships that change can happen.

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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