Whilst there are a multitude of reasons why relationships fail, there are a few common reasons that tend to surface in couple counselling:
It’s usually a tricky combination – two people coming together who often have different backgrounds and have been brought up differently in many ways. Despite individual differences, couples need to find common ground in order to be able to move forward and communicate well. Sometimes individuals hold distorted beliefs about the opposite sex or about how relationships should unfold. Counselling helps couples relearn alternative, more balanced ways of thinking based on information gathered and practice these new ways of thinking daily.
The main problems around communication involve a lack of basic interpersonal skills – either with one or both people in the relationship. These can range from poor awareness of feelings to difficulty empathising with others.
Another issue that can hinder communication is where there are very intense emotions involved. It is much harder to communicate when one or both parties are extremely angry, frustrated or resentful etc. Sometimes, ‘colour zones’ can be used to indicate when communication can occur. The blue zone describes a calm zone (each individual has a post – it , or similar, with the different colours), a yellow zone describes a range of anger in which there is still control over words, thoughts and actions and the red zone is where neither party should attempt to communicate as there is too much emotion. When there is too much emotion we often say things we regret.
Hopelessness in a relationship can also make it very difficult to make any type of progress. When the couple feels there is little that can be done to improve their situation or where they feel their partner will never change.
2. Unrealistic Expectations
With almost every relationship, each person brings with them an expectation of how they want the relationship to be, and how their partner will fulfill their needs. Often, these expectations lead to unrealistic demands. It can take a while for these unrealistic expectations and demands to reveal themselves but they can produce resentment and frustration when they do emerge. Unrealistic expectations are often held in direct conflict with the other’s viewpoint. For example, the man may expect that his wife doesn’t work whereas she wishes to work and not just stay at home.
Both parties blame each other for the trouble in their relationship and neither person wants to take any responsibility for the state of the relationship. This can lead to a deadlock where neither person wants to shift at all. Collaboration is key when it comes to solving relationship issues and without this, it can be very difficult to make any progress. Both people need to accept their part in the break down of the relationship and work towards amending their behaviour.
One way to help a relationship that is struggling is to introduce “caring days” where you both act toward each other “as if” you still loved each other as you did in the beginning of your relationship. Each person writes out a list of positive, specific behaviours that they would like the other person to do. The lists are exchanged and each person must try to do some of the behaviours on the list for the other person. This can help to restore some goodwill in the relationship and make it easier for the couple to communicate and collaborate.
Relationships need work, they don’t flourish without active positive input from both parties. What can you do today to show your partner you care about them? If you care. go and do it….