Many couples commonly face the following problems and, without some shifts in the dynamics, they are likely to have a serious impact on the quality and longevity of a relationship. If you and your partner are experiencing any of these then you may benefit from attending relationships counselling.
Neglecting the friendship
The quality of the friendship in a couple is paramount to its success and longevity. ‘Friendship’ extends beyond physical attraction and romance to sharing common values and interests. It is important to share activities that you both enjoy, such as sports or cultural activities. Having some common friends and a good relationship with your partner’s family will also enhance your relationship, as it facilitates the sharing of positive social and family interactions. A good relationship should feel like a solid team effort where each partner knows that the other person cares, understands and will support him or her whole-heartedly.
If the friendship underpinning a romantic relationship is neglected, it will deteriorate. Couples need to regularly spend time sharing meaningful activities and discussions. Often life becomes so busy that people put off spending the necessary time together to stay connected and they usually drift apart as a consequence.
Conflicts are usually the result of differences in values, opinions and operational styles. One partner generally believes the other should change and often blames him or her for problems. People are unlikely to change if they feel misunderstood or attacked – they are more likely to become defensive than receptive, which often feeds into their partner’s critical view of them. The emotional damage accompanying arguments often leads to actions that bring out the worst in people because, when people are upset, they do not think clearly and they can act in ways they later regret.
Repeated conflicts can lead to anger, disappointment, frustration and emotional damage. Therefore, conflicts must be managed mindfully so that they do not create distance and resentment. It is crucial to wait until both partners are calm before addressing relationship difficulties in order to avoid saying or doing things that can lead to resentment and regret.
Trying to eliminate differences
Everyone has differing values, priorities and operating styles. No matter how much two people are attracted to each other, they will never totally align in all aspects of life. Examples of issues couples often have disagreements over are: money, preferred holiday destinations, prioritising extended family and friends, amount of time spent together or alone, ways of communicating love and acceptable levels of cleanliness within the home.
People often believe that their opinion is right and their partner’s is not. However it is more helpful and balanced to find a way to appreciate and openly discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different viewpoints, rather than trying to change the other person.
People often become determined to have their way and are therefore inflexible in their thinking and responses. When telling their partner that they are wrong does not produce change, they may consciously or subconsciously punish their partner as a result. This can involve taking away elements of the relationships the partner values, such as supportive conversation or sexual intimacy. Often the component that is removed is an important ingredient for closeness, so both partners then feel lonely, upset and misunderstood.
It is important that both partners make the effort to remind themselves of what they appreciate about each other and express this regularly, despite any differences of opinion that may occur.
Loss of compassion
Everyone likes to feel understood by their partner, and not judged as wrong. However, understanding does not mean agreeing. Unfortunately, until each partner feels the other is willing to understand him or her, they are also less willing to attempt to understand. This leads to the loss of empathy and compassion, and acts of care, for the other. It is not then surprising that a partner may consider separation, or find value elsewhere – such as at work, in community activities, with the children, on the internet or with someone else. Problems resulting from relationships under stress – including anxiety, depression, addictions and eating disorders – can also add pressure.
It is therefore important that both parties are willing to understand and value each other’s perspectives, even if they do not entirely agree. Throughout this process, it is also important for partners to give concrete reminders that they love and care for each other despite any differences of opinion that may be occurring at the time.
Times of crisis
Common crises that couples may face throughout their relationship are job loss, child-related problems (e.g. infertility, miscarriage, a disabled child), the death of parents and traumas (e.g. drought, bushfires). At these times, understanding, compassion and friendship are particularly important in a relationship, as each partner is likely to react differently to the situation. If couples become caught up in their different ways of responding to a crisis, it can lead to permanent relationship damage. However, if a couple acts as a team by supporting and caring for each other, dealing with a crisis can actually strengthen a relationship.
At Strategic Psychology, we base our relationship counselling strategies on empirically based, tried and tested, methods. We are passionate about assisting couples address these common challenges and others that may arise in the course of their relationship. Our sessions can be conducted individually, together with your partner, or through a mixture of individual and couple sessions. Our priority is to ensure that both partners are able to find the support needed in order to re-establish a loving, healthy relationship.
If your partner is not ready or willing to seek help, you can still access individual assistance. This may help you to develop tools and strategies to help stimulate changes, improve your communication and better manage conflict in your relationship. If your partner later decides they would like to be involved, they are able to join with you at any time to continue working together towards improving the relationship and addressing issues that arise.
If you live in the Canberra region and feel that you are experiencing relationship difficulties, you can contact Strategic Psychology to arrange to see a psychologist. We can assist you in reconnecting with your partner and learning strategies to strengthen your relationship.
Australian Psychology Society. (2015). Understanding and managing relationship problems. Retrieved from the Australian Psychological Society website: https://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/relationship/