“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way“
Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina1877
Are you struggling in your personal relationships? With a parent, sibling or a child? With a partner or a friend? With a work colleague? Is someone important to you causing you unhappiness?
Relationships are one of the great sources of both happiness and unhappiness in our lives. Trying to understand the root of the misery we sometimes feel can be confusing. Often we are engaged in reciprocal roles with another which we can not see for ourselves. We may find ourselves sabotaging our relationships when intimacy becomes too much. Or pushing others away in order to test their commitment to us. We may engage in passive aggressive behaviour, imagining the other is able to understand our hidden communication. Often therapy can help to shine a light on the situation, creating a breathing space and a safe place to work through the issues involved.
Often the fights we have with others have a familiar ring to them. We may even be able to see what it is within us that causes the pain but not know what to do about it or be too ashamed or proud to discuss it. Or perhaps repetitive cycles of entrenchment and bitterness lead to anger and dependency with our partners.
Therapy can help identify and address the core concerns and causes to unhappy relationships. One goal of the therapy is to move you from these holding patterns into real dialogues that address your true needs, hopes, wishes and dreams. This may call for courage, patience, and honesty. Most suffering is both an expression of inner conflict and a desire to grow through it. Understanding what we are really trying to say and what we really need is the foundation of relationship therapy. Sometimes people need help with endings. Sometimes with new beginnings. It may not be easy but it is better than suffering. So if you need help with a relationship issue, a divorce, a new marriage, temptation or loss, get in touch and we can begin to make a change to how you feel today.
Chances are the last time you clashed with your partner, the argument had a painfully familiar ring to it. The facts may differ, the intensity may vary, but the basic issues stay the same—the positions infuriatingly entrenched. Even the misery that comes after the fight has a recycled feel to it. “We’re stuck,” many couples tell me. “We never get anywhere—even when we really try to sit down and talk about our problems.” Sadly enough, it’s true. Meaningful dialogue has stopped as each party continues to play a role in a stand-off that destroys confidence in problem-solving abilities as well as the relationship.
Fights which are focused on money, in-laws, sex, work, affairs, retirement, friends, recreation, children, jealousy, and lifestyle often have deeper roots. The anger, sadness, emotional disengagement, and despair that underlie these fights need careful attention and exploration. The hidden hopes and dreams are the real casualties—subjects so carefully guarded that they never even enter the discussion, and not surprisingly, often have to do with friendship, safety, respect, compassion, trust, freedom, self-exploration, love, and joy.
The goal of therapy is not to eliminate fighting. Fights are going to happen—they’re natural and normal in all relationships. The question is: how quickly and effectively do you move to repair your fights? Are you able to examine exactly what went wrong and talk this over with your partner without getting back into the fight? If not, you are in effect “wasting” your fights, ensuring that there will be no take-away lesson and no chance to have more skilled interactions in the future.
Ask yourself whether or not you could use some help with aspects of your interactions that tend to “go off the rails”:
- Are either of you critical as opposed to gentle in voicing complaints?
- Are either of you defensive rather than taking ownership of at least a part of the problem?
- Are either of you “holier than thou” (contemptuous) rather than working from a foundation of friendship and appreciation—knowing that nobody’s perfect?
- Do either of you shut down and withdraw during your fights?
- Do your discussions start harshly?
- Are you both open to influence from the other or is it instead a one-way street?
- Do you enjoy your time together doing routine tasks or errands?
- Do you have meaningful rituals and habits around leave-taking and reunion, meals, friendships, bedtimes, couples dates and holidays?
- Do you share similar goals and values?
- Do the two of you compromise well?
If you would like to take a look at what is happening in your relationship or what is holding you back from beginning a fulfilling relationship, get in touch.