When relationships go wrong
We don’t tend to think too much about our relationship until things start going wrong. Often when couples come to therapy it’s the last resort, when they’ve exhausted all avenues and don’t know where to turn next.
There can be many reasons why relationships have difficulties: you may be taking each other for granted, expect to have the same views and opinions, can’t appreciate your partner’s point of view or you may be stuck in a rut and just don’t know how to get out of it. Alongside these, you may have work, family or financial pressures that are impacting on your relationship.
Here are some things you can try to repair the relationship:
1. Write: Each write down what you feel the problem is and exchange letters; then imagine one of your friends had written this letter. What advice would you give to them? Often that’s the advice you need to give to yourself!
2. Talk: If you can’t talk to each other without it turning into an argument, go to somewhere public and talk. It’s less likely to degenerate into an explosive row.
3. Negotiate: Couples often don’t negotiate changes in their relationships, especially when children come along. Like the old days, go out on dates (perhaps one night a month) to put some effort into your partner and make time for each other.
4. Focus: As well as focusing on the problem, put at least an equal amount of energy into thinking about the things you like and admire about your partner. It helps you to feel less hostile towards them and more likely to communicate well.
5. Have fun: Remember the early days when you did silly things and laughed together. Get back in touch with those feelings by recreating some of those events.
6. Have perspective: Probably the most obvious, but the most difficult - try stepping into your partner’s shoes and imagine what it’s like for them. If you can do that, it will help you to see a different perspective to the problem and help you find a place where compromise is possible.
If you’ve tried the above - or feel you simply can’t - and any of the following apply to you, then now would be a good time to consider counselling:
- You feel like you’re stuck in a rut.
- When you talk, one or both of you, feel like you are talking to a brick wall.
- You try and talk but you just go round and round in never ending circles.
- After you've talked, you feel frustrated and confused.
- You can't talk for more than a few minutes without it turning into a shouting match.
- You're afraid that if you bring up a certain subject, things will get even worse.
- There's nothing left to say.
Different counsellors have different approaches to counselling, there’s no right or wrong and often it’s personal taste. I can only say that I offer a ‘no nonsense’ approach; it isn’t my role to point the finger at either one of you, but it is my role to help you communicate effectively, understand and appreciate each other, and learn to compromise where possible.
I do this by exploring the nature of your problems and the impact they’re having; learn the history of your problems and why you’re struggling with them; understand what’s preventing you from overcoming the problems; discover what changes you’d like to see and finally help you find a way forward to resolve the problems and learn how to deal with relationship conflict in the future.
Ultimately there are three possible outcomes:
- Live with it – sometimes change just isn’t possible but you are able to find a way to live with each other.
- Let go – if you or your partner can’t or won’t change, you may decide to split.
- Change it – you decide that you can and will work together to make your relationship better.
For many couples, the solution is right under their noses - it just takes someone objective to see what it is. When you’re too close to the problem you often can’t see the wood for the trees – fortunately I am a trained wood-spotter!
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