Sue McRitchie talks… relationships

Some say that we are born seeking relationships.

It can appear, sometimes, that the world is built around couples, and families are often cited as the most important thing in our life.

Why then, I wonder, do many of us struggle with our relationships – intimate or not?

The  numbers are sobering and, whilst the latest figures on divorce recognise a recent decline in numbers, still 42% of marriages end in divorce – and that is with fewer people getting married and doesn’t even recognise other relationships which break down.

There are, of course, many aspects of our life which impact on our personal lives. Often our relationships suffer due to pressure of work, social expectations, financial pressures to mention but a few.

However, in order to maintain a positive and healthy relationship, the most important focus needs to be what is happening between the individuals, how this is valued and prioritised. Too often, as a couple counsellor, I see people who forget this critical point and get diverted away on a different course.

At times like this it is worth considering the space between two people, the relationship, like a crucible or a mixing bowl. And as with any receptacle the quality and quantity of the ingredients we put in will affect the product we get out.

Four things which have a particularly corrosive impact on our relationships are known as the four horseman of the apocalypse* because of the havoc they can wreak!

Criticism

Do you ever find yourself attacking your partner’s personality as if there were something wrong with it?

Try complaining using ‘I’ statement, not ‘you’ messages.

Defensiveness

Ever apologised with a ‘yes but…’ or justified less than positive behaviour?

Try looking for your part in the problem/issue and find a way to accept responsibility – even if it’s not your fault.

Contempt

Remember we don’t need to use words to convey feelings – facial expressions say it all sometimes – rolling your eyes, head shaking or a sarcastic grin.

Try looking at you partner the way you did when you first saw them – rose tinted spectacles can be good at times!

Stonewalling

This is where we ignore our partner or refuse to respond/reply. Sometimes this happens when emotions are high.

If you feel things are getting too heated then agree that you will take some time out (20 minutes or so) and then you will come back and try to discuss in a calm way.

Relationships can trigger intense emotions which can be to the good but can also be damaging - so reflect on last week and look out for ‘the horsemen’ – and maybe make a decision, even if it is only for today, to leave these ‘negative’ elements at the door and concentrate on placing ‘positive’ into your particular mixing bowl!

*Gottman Institute Inc

Sue McRitchie MSc., BACP(Accred)

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 Sue McRitchie BACP (Accred), MSc, Dip.Couns.,Dip.Add.,Adv.Cert.Sup.

Sue McRitchie MSc., BACP Accred. has over 25 yrs. experience of NHS, Statutory, Voluntary and Private organisations with specialisms in addictions, systems and couples

As practitioner and senior manager she has worked with management boards, multidisciplinary teams, supervisees and individuals/couples seeking to enhance their way of being.… Read more

Written by Sue McRitchie BACP (Accred), MSc, Dip.Couns.,Dip.Add.,Adv.Cert.Sup.

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