My aim here is to inform and assist people having difficulties but aren’t familiar with the process of finding a counsellor. If you are in need of guidance but don’t know where to turn, you’ve come to the right place.
When relationships are going through that challenging stage, one feels as if we are not being understood or accepted. We feel increasingly alone and often develop negative beliefs about ourselves, that part of us knows are not true (for example, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m powerless”). Beliefs, however, are a very powerful force and often end up guiding the choices we make in the present, especially in relationships. Our Happiness and most important our decision making process is affected. These core beliefs run very deeply whether we are consciously aware of them or not, they undermine our personal growth and progress significantly. Any person who wants to understand the nature of their problems and is willing to explore them can be helped to grow. You are not stuck with what has always been. With clarity and understanding, you can find that all-important decision making process again, having choices that are not based on anger, loss or fear. Just being happy again.
The most commonly reported relationship problem by far is communication. This may be one of the broadest and most difficult terms to define with regard to relationships. It tends to have many different meanings to each of us. A simple book defined it as:
“Men from Mars – Women from Venus”. It defines almost two different languages however it also defines; "Miss-Understanding".
Literally, not to understanding the other person's point of view. This is often more a matter of refusing to allow the existence of the other's view as opposed to not understanding it! It is an unwillingness to take the time to genuinely listen, care and to understand.
In many relationships the interest seems to lie primarily in getting one's own point of view heard and understood rather than having an interest in hearing and understanding the others’. There is an irony here worth looking at . . . If people cared to listen to the other person with as much interest as he or she wished the other would listen to them, both would end up receiving exactly what they are looking for! I came across the following quote (unknown author) which in itself is beautifully simplistic:
“To truly know another, we must be willing to see the world through their eyes, not simply our own. If we listened as well as we spoke, really connecting would take care of itself . . .”
UNRESOLVED ISSUES FROM OUR PAST
A frequent cause of mis-understanding in relationships is unresolved baggage from our past. Now I know many of you are thinking, "How could events and experiences from years ago have any impact on how I communicate to my family in the present?"
Let me give you an example, if a person grew up in a loud, violent or abusive environment, that person's response to conflict, arguing, or confrontation, would be significantly different than a person whose home environment was the opposite (healthy at conflict resolution).
Often in relationships, "like attracts like". So it is common for individuals who share poor conflict resolution skills to find and attract someone who has similarly limited skills (often without any awareness that this is what they've done). In these relationships there will be plenty of communication . . . however on the other hand they may find it difficult at times of conflict as they lack the skills to resolve them.
This is just one simple example of how old baggage can follow us in ways we may not be conscious of. There are many more including your preconceived ideas and experiences regarding sexuality, the proper way to raise children, how you relate to and handle money, and acceptance and understanding ones needs.
One that brings untold issues in relationships is entering into one with all kinds of expectations and then over the years, feeling disappointed again and again that they have not been met. Part of this issue relates to the childhood baggage I mentioned before. We often have preconceived expectations of what marriage and relationships are supposed to be like.
This can be derived from many different sources, not the least of which is the marriage and relationship of our parents. That's the one we lived and breathed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That kind of exposure gets absorbed, some on a conscious level, some on an unconscious one. The biggest problem with expectations in general is that we may know what our expectations are, but it unlikely that our partner does! Even more frustrating is when we have these expectations and even we can't name them, yet we expect our partner to fulfil them. . The majority of couples I've worked with often lose sight of whom they fell in love and thereafter fall into the trap of only seeing what “they” now bring into the relationship. Not what “they themselves” contribute. Again, we are often quite unaware that this is our perception and should take equal responsibility for our expectations. To truly understand what we are seeing in another, we must first hold up a mirror and understand what we are seeing in ourselves.
SEX AND INTIMACY
This topic is huge and very complex the following is but a very brief overview
Sex is one of the most common areas of conflict in many relationships, and ruling out any physical or medical causes of difficulty, it is often a reflection of whatever state the relationship is in. For instance, if communications have become distant or hostile withholding physical touch/communication for punishment or defence purposes which manifests itself with huge consequences..
Chronic disappointment and dashed expectations can manifest in a serious loss of intimacy in the relationship. Not being able to identify what each other’s expectations are, or resolve them making matters even worse. If there is a lack of intimacy with regard to the basic friendship and trust ( “I no longer like him/her” ) this can create a wedge between each other, a dividing line in the bedroom!
To further complicate matters; often sexual interactions means something different to men than they do for women. Women like to feel emotionally connected before they become physically connected. Men, on the other hand, may be the other way around, often using sexual activity to be connected first. Simply gender difference’s – the key is universal “acceptance of difference” not make the mistake and hold your partner responsible for your needs. Look at the good side: How desirable you've made yourself to your partner with your own behaviour and sexuality.
Resentments are the number one killer of all relationships. They are a slow poison, undermining the love, trust and mutual respect you may have once had with each other. It is critical in the treatment of relationships to uncover these often unknown or unspoken resentments. Each person is then responsible for discovering the part they played in the creation of these resentments along with what they can do to improve themselves. The focus is not on how the other person needs to change, but rather on what you can do to change yourself and accept. No blaming, just self-responsibility, it takes two to tango.
Resentments crop up quickly as communication dwindles, when expectations are not met and old hurts begin to get "triggered" by relationship issues in the present. This is incredibly common, yet generally is an unknown source of pain. Triggers are current experiences that bear a resemblance to ways in which you've been hurt, abandoned or treated stemming from the past. They are often not consciously connected to what's happening in your present relationship, but when they are shown to you, they are clearly seen and understood.
An example would be when your partner takes a tone with you that is reminiscent of an important adult from your childhood, who was responsible for creating pain for you. Sometimes we have to think long and hard in order to make these connections. A red flag that this is what's occurring is that you are perceived to be overreacting to whatever is happening in the present . . . sound familiar?
Resentments often build as a direct result of a person's inability to communicate their needs and/or take responsibility for them in the first place. Resentments leads directly to loss of respect for the other person. This then leads to sexual problems, more bad feelings, blame and distancing. Isn't it fascinating how all these issues just blend together in one massive, connected swirl?
The truth is, we can never really respect ourselves unless we show the courage and the willingness to take full responsibility for what belongs to us, which the other person did not place there! Once the hurts are neutralized including the presenting one’s and each person has shown the courage to own their part we move to the all-important big one: “Forgiveness” (including self) the road to happiness is possible.
O! dear, talk about a killer of trust and commitment, here is the number one offender.
Many people are quick to use this as the root cause of the breakdown however often it is the result of the breakdown of the relationship itself, rather than being the cause. I would simply suggest that individuals who are content and fulfilled within the marriage, virtually never look outside of it for that unique intimacy. Affairs are often used as a way to lick one's wounds, to escape from the difficulties of the current relationship, to abandon the responsibility. If your connection to your partner is missing big pieces, start by looking at what you are bringing. If you're empty and unfulfilled in your relationship, perhaps it's because you are not offering all you could be to it! Looking for comfort elsewhere simply adds more pain and suffering to what was already present. If you are the one who strayed, you have the responsibility of failing to face the part you played in the unsatisfying elements of your relationship. If your own relationship was where you put your energy (rather than with someone else) then your own relationship would have gotten the benefit of your positive energy, rather than pain and unhappiness.
Relationships can heal from this most devastating of betrayals, but full responsibility, remorse and true commitment to self-development must be the foundation for the healing. You must be willing to do whatever it takes to rebuild the trust that's been lost. Nothing less will do. Many do not have the courage or character to take this on. If you do, you have the chance to create an even deeper, more meaningful relationship . . .
Although the above are certainly not all of the relationship troubles which can befall us, they are the most universal ones that I experience in my work. However equally within each one of these issues lies a wealth of information we can learn from, opening the door to a quality of life and loving relationships we all seek.Not easy taking those first steps to understand why we trip and fall, the journey that takes us wading through that muddy pool. However when the muddy pool settles, as it always does, we find the clarity which gives us choices. Not through fear but through our understanding, our choices now “informed”. Like anything else you reap what you sow. Personal growth is no exception. Unfortunately, it seems to be the preference of many to take the easy route and simply blame others for their relationship woes.
I encourage all of you who so deeply want that connected, loving and satisfying relationship, to invest yourself in what it takes to have it. All deserve HAPPINESS.
Be the best version of you............ Life is not about waiting for the rain to pass, It's about learning how to Dance in the Rain Pip