The importance of forming and sustaining loving, healthy relationships - whether it be with family, friends, or our romantic partners - is vital to our wellbeing. As children, we depend on our care-givers to provide us with both physical and emotional needs. This dependency then transfers to our romantic partners as adults. However, if during our childhood we were not given adequate love and attention, it can lead to difficulties in forming and keeping healthy relationships as adults. If you find yourself always getting into intense, short-term flings and having difficulty maintaining stable relationships, therapy can help you identify why this is happening and guide you in making healthier choices when it comes to partners.
It's not uncommon for couples to experience difficulties in their long-term relationships. These issues can arise suddenly, often due to unexpected life events such as the death of a loved one, or they may develop gradually over time. Conflict is a natural part of any relationship, but when it becomes the norm it can create a destructive cycle. The four main destructive relationship behaviours are criticism, stonewalling, defensiveness, and contempt. Criticism is usually used as a power tactic to make the partner feel belittled, stonewalling is a silent form of rebellion, defensiveness is a way of avoiding accountability, and contempt arises from negative emotions that are not properly expressed. While it is important to manage fights, learning how to communicate your needs in a non-threatening way is key to building a healthy, stable relationship.
If you're in a relationship and feeling unwell, disconnected, distrustful, unloved, isolated, misunderstood, controlled, judged, criticized, abused, or like you're giving more than you're receiving, it's likely that the relationship is unhealthy. You should always trust your gut instinct and take the necessary steps to ensure your own safety.
Common relationship myths can lead us to believe that our relationships are doomed from the start. However, the truth is that couples therapy can be highly effective, even if you start early on. Whilst the infatuation of a new relationship may not last forever, it doesn't mean that the passion has to completely disappear. It's possible to reignite the fire, as long as both parties make an effort. We should also be aware of the unrealistic expectations that are perpetuated by romantic films and novels, and instead look for a partner who is willing to work through any issues that arise. It's not always necessary to break up when problems occur, and couples therapy can actually help strengthen the relationship. Lastly, individual therapy can help single people to date more stable and secure partners and can help to identify the root causes of any relationship issues.
If you have noticed repeating patterns in your relationships that you are having trouble making sense of, it may be a sign to consider therapy. If you and your partner are facing a lot of conflict and find yourselves stuck in the same behavioral cycles, therapy can help. Schema Therapy, Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT), Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy (DIT), Mentalisation Based Treatment, and Narrative Therapy are effective approaches to treating relationship issues. When deciding between individual and couples therapy, it is best to have an assessment first to determine which option is best. It is not uncommon to begin with individual therapy and then switch to couples therapy when it is clear that something needs to be addressed in the relationship.