When we’re our own worst enemies

16 June 2020

Some couples set themselves on a route to relationship break-up – by repeating the same old bad habits time and again.

Here are some of them:

Not listening to what is being said

Communication is the most important part of a relationship. By paying closer attention to how you’re communicating with your partner you can help stop small disagreements turning into bigger problems.

“Essentially what goes wrong is that couples get so intent on conveying their own message that they forget to listen to what the other person is saying,” says our counsellor Diane Whitmore. “And even if they are listening they’re not making the other person feel like they’ve heard them.

“Learn to listen and allow your partner to feel heard. If people don’t feel valued in a relationship, inevitably it will result in hurt feelings, and that starts the downward spiral of miscommunication and unmet needs.”

Unresolved issues

Some couples have unresolved issues that date back years.

“What often annoys us about our partner is old stuff that we’re reactivating from our past,” says Diane. “By acknowledging that some of the old hurt is being projected onto the current situation we can lighten the load. For a partner, hearing the real root cause of your feelings can lead to more empathy.”

Depending on each other for happiness

Being completely dependent on your partner for your own happiness can lead to disappointment.

“Many couples come with the same problem – if their partner could only clean up their act, they could finally be happy together,” says Diane. “People put their happiness into someone else’s hands. With maturity comes the realisation that romantic love, while offering us so much richness and potential for growth, will never be the be-all and end-all, and that ultimately we are responsible for our own happiness – both inside and outside our relationship.”

Putting the kids first at the expense of the relationship

The transition from a couple to a family of three or more can be one of the biggest changes you face in your relationship.

“Lots of couples I work with identify the time they started their family as the point at which they drifted apart,” says Diane. “They felt that the ‘right’ thing to do was to put the kids first. However, it’s even more important that the couple continue to make time for each other after they have kids. Kids will grow up, become independent and leave – the parents’ role is to support them in that. By investing everything in the kids and nothing in each other, it can lead to a hollow relationship – one that’s unlikely to endure beyond child-raising.”

Growing apart rather than growing together

As time goes by, relationships will change. At every stage of the relationship, the relationship needs to be rebooted.

“If you both go in the same direction, that’s great – but if you go in the opposite direction it’s bound to create a rift,” says Diane. “If you do so for a long period, inevitably you grow apart. You see it in couples who have grown so far apart that they don’t recognise the other person in the relationship anymore. You need to communicate with each other and bring your values and expectations into line and make sure the other person knows what you want.”

Overlooking the positive

Many of us automatically focus on what’s wrong in our relationship and what we’d like to change about our partner. While it can be useful to acknowledge things that aren’t working in the relationship and take steps to address them, it can often distract us from what is working and the positive things that our partner does for us.

“Often, when I work with clients to really recognise the efforts their partner makes on their behalf, it’ll be met with: ‘But they should do that anyway’ or ‘I shouldn’t need to tell them I’m grateful’. By showing our appreciation, it reinforces our partner’s feeling that the efforts they make are recognised –and they’ll be inclined to do more rather than becoming complacent.”

If you’d like to talk about these or other issues with one of our counsellors why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.




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