RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS AND RELATIONSHIP THERAPY
All relationships go through difficult patches at one time or another. Most of the time you will find a way to resolve your difficulties. Naturally you will strive to resolve the problems yourselves, but when the troubles become entrenched and difficult to solve, it may be sensible to seek couples- or marriage-therapy.
It would be ideal if both partners can agree that some things need to change for you to become unstuck and if both partners can take responsibility for the distress and anguish you probably both feel. However, if your partner is reluctant or unwilling to seek help, it can be very helpful if you attend sessions yourself. It is impossible to change someone else, but small or simple changes on your side may help you to feel better or to handle the situation differently, or it may even start a domino effect and cause positive change in the relationship.
There are a number of reasons why problems occur in relationships. These are only a few problems which can be addressed through relationship therapy:
Neglect of each other and your friendship
We understand that the foundation of a good relationship is a solid friendship. This means that you share similar values and interest, you enjoy each other’s company and you trust in each other’s support and understanding. You work together as a team and you are there for each other. Even though it seems unnecessary to even mention, this friendship needs to be nurtured and this happens when couples spend time together doing things, talking about issues that matter to each partner, and planning for the future. The general demands of busyness of life often interferes with spending time together and nurturing the friendship. Couples drift apart and they no longer know and understand each other.
Hurt and conflict
Ongoing conflict leaves us feeling hurt, angry, disappointed, resentful and lonely. It is difficult to remain friends when you feel hurt and you no longer believe that you can trust your partner with your feelings and vulnerabilities. Conflict often begins early on in any relationship when the conflicts that you were able to manage before, become more challenging. Although change is always possible in any relationship, we are less likely to consider change when we are feeling misunderstood, judged or attacked. Partners fall into patterns of stone-walling, criticism, defensiveness, sarcasm, being passive-aggressive, and spitefulness. Distress caused by conflict and hurt, often brings out the worst in us. This can be fatal for the relationship.
Not accepting differences between partners
You are different people with different values, priorities and perspectives. You may differ in your attitudes towards finances, how you like to spend your time with each other, friends, and family, how you show affection, how to discipline the children, how to drive the car and what to watch on television. We tend to believe that we are right and that the other person should change. This leads to blame and criticism, instead of embracing and supporting each other’s differences.
Withdrawing our care and compassion
We usually try to communicate our unhappiness, anger, hurt and disappointment to our partner. This often comes across as criticism and usually does not have the desired effect. We then resort to punishing them by no longer doing things that our partners value or enjoy – these are typically spending time together, sex, discussions or affection. As talking and sex are fundamental ingredients to closeness and intimacy, it is not surprising that both partners start to feel lonely, misunderstood, unhappy and hopeless.
Loss of compassion
When we feel hurt and misunderstood, acts of love and care vanish. Empathy, compassion and care for how the other person is feeling is no longer visible and present. This is a time when the risk is very high for the partner to find value and meaning elsewhere – work, friends, alcohol, on the internet, and another partner.
Stress or Crisis
Couples can easily be torn apart when they struggle to work together as a team during a difficult or stressful time. People react differently to a crisis such as death, trauma, ill health, miscarriage and these differences need to be understood and respected.