Over the last few weeks I seem to have heard similar stories of the balance between growing up and growing adult relationships … There are so many pressures that compound this already challenging situation. We are often up against much – financial pressures, changes in the family dynamics – births or deaths, moving house or loss of employment. This has an impact on ‘self’ and of course other relationships with partners or children.
The affect seems to be on the relationship often with the person closest to you, your partner. It is not uncommon for clients to talk about their experience of their relationship as being like “ships passing through the night”. They go on to explain, “We don’t have time for each other and when we do have time together we just argue. It’s causing me much distress and I’m finding it hard to concentrate on work, I’m drained and I can’t give much to anyone at the moment”.
Relationships can provide us with some of the most rewardingand positive experiences in our lives. They can at times, however, present us with our greatest challenges and can become a source of anxiety. It is useful to step back as if you were looking in on a painting and see how this came to be this way? Are these patterns played out in other relationships (family of origin)? What’s going on for you? What needs to change within yourself in order for the pattern of interaction to be different? Victor Frankl suggests, “when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”… it is much easier to point the finger at someone else and blame them for the distance or conflict in the relationship. In my experience the power and process of change lies within each of us. It is fascinating to watch as clients start to increase their self awareness and take responsibility for their actions and reactions to others …. the ‘dance’ (pattern of interactions) between the couple starts to change. This is consistent with my understanding of a clients presenting ‘symptom’; the symptoms I believe are connected to the big picture of a person’s life and relationships.
Just like everything else in your life that is important, relationships require work and attention to keep them healthy and functioning. But mostly self-awareness and self-regulation are the keys to better functioning relationships. I encourage clients to experiment with these ideas by noticing and observing the things learned about self in counseling process in the systems of real life and relationships.
Some practical tips:
1. Manage your own stress levels by learning techniques to reduce your physiological and psychological symptoms of stress and anxiety (such as increased heart rate, tightness in the body and narrowing in thinking), for example exercise, meditation, listening to music
2.Catch your partner doing good things and let them know – build a culture of appreciation and fondness.
3. Build up the emotional bank account;
• Five compliments for each non-committal answer or complaint.
• Five expressions of affection for each outburst of anger or blame.
• Five good things for every bad.
4. Start really listening to what your partner is saying. Suspend your judgments and invest in understanding their ‘position’, whilst being clear about your position.
5. Avoid the use of contempt, criticism, stonewalling and defensiveness in conflict as it can be highly destructive.
If you are concerned or finding one or more of the relationships in your life difficult, invest the time to improve/ rebuild the relationships in your life that matter through Relationship Counselling:
• Strengthen your own well being
• Gain greater insight and understanding of the concerns that led to seeking therapy
• Attain a better understanding of yourself, your goals and values
• Explore relationships and identify ways in which established patterns of relating may be affecting how you feel about yourself, giving you the opportunity to decide which of these patterns you may like to change
• Learn new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
• Manage anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures
• Improve communication and listening skills in all your relationships