Are you bored sexually and tired of each other?
Stressed from a new job, family interferences, or from the relentlessness of parenting ?
Wishing your partner was more considerate and aware of the things you do for them and your home?
Fed up with the feeling unheard, unnoticed and misunderstood by your partner?
Looking for the spark that first attracted you to each other?
Concerned that your partner might be having an affair ?
Feeling you no longer having anything in common ?
There are so many variations on how to experience relationship conflict.. You’re human, your partner is human, we’re all human. We have complex personalities and vastly different families of origin. Some couples become masters of relationships despite the challenges, but others struggle. Read on to see where your relationship fits.
We see all types of problems in our work. Some relationships struggle from the beginning. You may have always wondered whether you loved your partner more than they love you, if you were the more committed one, or if you put in most of the effort. It is surprising how many people nurse wounds about how they got together, who proposed and how – perhaps they feel that they just drifted into a relationship and were never really sure if they were truly valued. Alternatively, they may have received or made a ‘wow factor’ proposal, but always had doubts as to whether they should have plunged in so wholeheartedly – whether they had truly chosen the right person, because the fights started even before the wedding! It is sad to see how these sorts of wounds have impacted negatively on relationships but beautiful to see such doubts explored and put to rest in a safe environment.
Some couples are really great together from the beginning until an event or stressful time of life occurs and destabilises everything. The most common of these is the impact of parenting. Adjusting from being a (relatively) carefree couple to one experiencing sleep deprivation and relentless responsibility for small children puts all couples to the test. Changing jobs, retrenchment, losing a close family member or friend – these and all the usual high stressors, such as moving or money troubles, impact negatively on couples. And although a lot of couples push through the challenges, they may feel the relationship is not quite as shiny or marvellous as it was afterwards.
Perhaps most commonly, relationships cycle between highs and lows. Many couples endure the ups and downs, even expecting them. The lows are often not too bad, and the highs might make the relationship that much richer. But when the low periods become too unbearable, and good times are few and far between, one person might start to think about leaving.
You might like to stop and think about whether your relationship mimics any of these patterns.
There are so many themes that might resonate for you: the trust theme, the in-law theme, the sexual mismatch theme, the “I put in more than you” theme or the “I can never get it right” criticism theme.
As therapists it is safe to say that we do not ever really see two couples with the same set of problems – what we do see, are couples facing similar challenges based on the same underlying themes. This is why, as therapists, we love what we do and why we can be so effective. Working with each couple is unique, with each couple providing a challenge for the therapist to respond to their unique circumstances and issues. The couple and their therapist work together to uncover the theme, or themes, which are proving challenging and then work towards to putting things right.
Increasingly we see most couple issues boiling down to a few basic underpinnings. Is your partner there for you – can you count on them when you need them? Do they value you over all others?
Even if you don’t ever get to relationship counselling, if you can truly find a way to let each other feel safe, valued, cared for, put first – you may find many of your difficulties no longer feel insurmountable. It seems like a relatively easy thing to do, but many people find that even when making their best efforts to make their partner feel valued and loved, years of negative filters get in the way. Their best intentions are misinterpreted or treated with suspicion. If you cannot find a way to get to counselling, it is our sincerest wish that you can read through this site and the information provided in our resources section and that this proves helpful in your current situation.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Long-running small problems erode your relationship. Have you been feeling ignored on a daily basis for some time? Feeling as though you have to put in an unfair amount of effort around the house? Are you doing all the work to manage the family finances yet constantly hearing your work is not up to scratch?
Making the biggest sexual compromises – or any other unfair compromises – over time doesn’t happen without long-term resentment. You might have tried to raise these issues only to find that this caused trouble and so it was easier to leave it alone.
According to John and Julie Gottman, we each have an “emotional bank account” that needs to be topped up regularly. If a whole host of small and irritating problems continue in the long term, they breed resentment and ultimately lead to emotional withdrawal.
In Sue Johnson’s EFT language, one person may be a “pursuer” in a relationship – trying to get the other to connect and put in, only to find that their partner takes on the role of a “withdrawer”. Do you feel as though you pursue but get nothing back? Or are you the withdrawer who ducks for cover to avoid conflict?
Unfortunately, pursuers can eventually get burnt out and become withdrawers. When this happens the pursuer is sometimes gone forever. Or are you the withdrawer who eventually withdraws from the relationship altogether, or who tries to connect in the end only to find the pursuer has given up? It doesn’t matter who you are in the relationship, but it is important that you hear your partner’s calls and fix things together, or, if you don’t know how, come to counselling … before it’s too late.
Working with one of our therapists can provide you with a safe and respectful environment where each partner can be open with each other to voice their feelings and concerns in a way that doesn’t come across as the same old relentless criticism, and to see things from each other’s perspectives. Often getting your partner to really listen and understand you is half the battle. This caring and supportive environment can often lead to breakthrough moments which allow you to repair and grow your relationship in a way not easily achieved without professional help.
Sadly, many couples end up at counselling when one person has had an affair, or when one person has lost the trust of their partner through some kind of small or large betrayal: the discovery of being lied to, the gambling away of joint funds, undisclosed or addictive use of porn, or even the forming of a close alliance with a platonic friend that leaves a partner feeling vulnerable and excluded. Trust can be eroded in many ways.
Trust is a recurring theme in relationship struggles: “Can I trust you to do what you say you will”? “Can I trust that you’ll try to think about what I need?” Or “I just can’t trust that you will be there for me when I need you, because you always let me down.”
Trust is one of the hardest issues to work with but trust issues ARE FIXABLE. Our therapists are skilled at using a variety of techniques designed to help you both to be more open, to feel gradually safer and more secure and to heal trust wounds.
If you or your partner have had an affair or are struggling with trust issues and you can’t come to counselling, please have a look at our resource list, there are some excellent reads on this crucial topic that could help you immensely.