Relationships are a very meaningful part of our lives, and can bring us a great deal of happiness and fulfilment. Strong connections with our loved ones, friends and work colleagues allow us to be at our healthiest and most productive, and for many these relationships offer an important source of advice, guidance, love and support.
However, fulfilling and supportive relationships don’t come automatically, and they require good social skills and a great deal of time and energy to stay strong and go the distance. Sometimes meaningful connections break down, which can leave people feeling lonely, disappointed and unsure of what to do. In some cases our relationships may not be fulfilling our expectations, which can impact our happiness and life satisfaction. On the other hand, some people may crave close friendships and/or romantic relationships but find them very difficult to come by.
Whatever the relationship issue, there is help available in the form of relationship counselling. In this setting a counsellor will work with couples or individuals to explore their needs and what they want from their relationships, while offering support and advice to help them get their relationship(s) back on track.
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Why do we need good relationships?
Human beings are naturally very sociable. We enjoy the company of others and crave positive interactions and meaningful friendships. To some extent good relationships are just as important for our survival as food and water, and this can explain why our health and happiness suffers when our relationships go wrong. Therefore, the better our relationships work, the happier and healthier we are going to be.
Extensive research has shown that people with satisfying relationships are likely to have fewer health problems and live longer. In contrast, those who do not have many social connections tend to show signs of depression and cognitive decline. Relationship counselling is focused primarily on making sure relationship issues are dealt with in a way that supports the health and well-being of those involved.
In the workplace, having good relationships with colleagues and others in the professional circle boosts productivity and is valuable for career development. Being on good terms with your boss means you are more likely to be considered if a new position opens up. There is also a sense of freedom to having good relationships. Rather than spending our time and energy overcoming obstacles associated with relationship issues, we are focused on opportunities and personal development.
What defines a good relationship?
All relationships are unique, but there are several characteristics that can signify strong, healthy connections. These include:
Trust - Relationships are built on trust, which is essential for good communication and forming strong bonds. Without trust, relationships are unlikely to survive.
Mindfulness - Being mindful of what you do and say means you are more likely to maintain strong relationships. Relationship issues can arise if you let your negative emotions affect others.
Mutual respect - Strong supportive relationships rely heavily on mutual respect, as it fosters understanding of each other's needs and values.
Good communication - Your relationships will be richer if you make an effort to keep in contact with those around you. Being honest and open with others also allows for you to connect deeply and build long lasting bonds.
In relationship counselling, therapists will work with clients to resolve relationship issues bearing in mind the above characteristics to explore exactly why things have gone wrong and how problems can be overcome.
Types of relationship issues
Relationship issues vary considerably, depending on the nature of the relationship and the circumstances that have led to problems. A relationship counsellor will work with a wide range of couples and individuals who are experiencing difficulties, and below is a brief exploration of the most common types of relationship issues that are addressed in counselling.
Betraying your spouse or a close friend can cause a great deal of damage to your relationship, as it destroys all sense of trust. Whether it's an affair, financial secrets or a hidden addiction, betrayal can be very painful and in some cases leads to the end of the relationship. However, a great number of people will want to work through a betrayal in order to overcome the pain and rebuild the relationship.
Sometimes couples will decide to separate or divorce without taking into account the practicalities or whether the relationship could be saved. Separation counselling provides an opportunity for a breakup to be explored before a final decision is made - helping couples to get closure and move forward in a way that is healthy for their individual needs.
Some couples seek extra support and advice on how to prepare themselves should the relationship break down or encounter difficulties in the future. Relationships are naturally full of ups and downs, so pre-nuptial counselling can help couples to be aware of certain stressors they may encounter in different stages of the relationship (i.e. following the birth of a child).
Our relationships with family members form an integral part of our lives, and when these become strained it can cause a lot of pain and disappointment. In some cases it may just be one family member that is causing a rift, or relationship issues may have built up over time and have never properly been addressed. Family counselling provides a safe and supportive environment where family members can communicate openly and listen to each other.
Relationships involve two people coming together from different backgrounds to build a new unit. While for many this process is relatively straightforward, for others their differences can be too prominent to come to a compromise. Counselling helps couples to better understand each other's beliefs and values in order to move forward with the relationship in a way that blends differences in a healthy way.
Could couples counselling help?
If you are experiencing relationship issues with your partner, you may find it beneficial to attend couples counselling sessions. Couples counselling is a form of talking therapy specifically designed to help two people within an intimate relationship. To find out more about this type of therapy, please visit our couples counselling page.
What our experts say
- Relationship addiction and narcissism: Are you trapped in the cycle of co-dependency?
Amanda Perl MSc Psychotherapist Counsellor MBPsS BACP (Accred) CBT Practitioner19th October, 2017
- How to listen better in your relationships
Dr Alexander Fox (MBACP, PgDip Counselling, Masters in Counselling, PhD)19th October, 2017
- Young people and unhealthy relationships
Balwinder Hunjan BSc (Hon) Dip Counselling Psychology Registered MBACP17th October, 2017
- Couple relationships and microfrictions: what is it, what can be done about it?
Graeme Armstrong MBACP13th October, 2017
- Are there benefits of having an affair?
Gill Sanders: Psychotherapist and Couples Counsellor, COSRT: BACP: UKCP:11th October, 2017
- Differentiation – balancing the need for togetherness and separation
Angela Dierks, BA (Hons), MStud (Oxon), MA Integrative Counselling, MBACP (Acc)7th October, 2017
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