Why can't I make and keep a good relationship?

All of us long for someone who we can rely on, be loved by, and feel safe with. Of course, relationships can take many forms. When we think about it, relationship begins for us even as a baby – whether it’s our parent or our carer. Our relationship circle widens as we grow up – our siblings if we have any, then with school with other children and our teachers, then now with our bosses, colleagues and mates. Along the journey of life, we hope to make life-long friends whom we can share things with and whose support we can rely on.

Most people also hope to find someone loving as a life partner to share life with and perhaps one day, have children together with. This hoped-for relationship is for many people the most significant relationship of all. This is why even though relationship problems with bosses, colleagues and friends can be tough and affect us deeply, a problem with a partner or spouse, or the lack of such a relationship, can feel devastating.

There is always another person involved in relationships, so seeing fault or failure as all on one side cannot be the answer, but how do you make sense of the pain you are experiencing? And, perhaps most importantly, how do you find a way forward?

The experience of not being able to make or to keep a good relationship suggests that there is a pattern or patterns, involved – one that may be hidden, or perhaps all too familiar.

If we think about it, we will recognise that our families often share physical traits, like height or hair colour. In the same way, early family relationships also influence and shape how we see ourselves, and how we are with others. They influence our hopes, fears and expectations of love and happiness.

Disappointment in current relationships may suggest that something has got stuck in an unhelpful pattern rooted in earlier childhood. These stuck patterns can be hard to see and to disentangle, and can lead to a sense that nothing can change.

Seeing a therapist can help you explore some of the crucial relationships that have shaped you. Your therapist will offer you a safe space for you to reflect on both your past and your present. In this way, you will be able to understand your pattern and find new ways of understanding yourself and others. You may then find new freedom and confidence in making new relationships and sustain them throughout your life journey.

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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