Human beings are naturally sociable and the connections we build in relationships help us to work out who we are, feel we belong and give our lives meaning. Those with satisfying relationships have fewer health problems and studies have shown they live longer. When we surround ourselves with good relationships we are more able to explore opportunities in a way that lets us grow and fulfill our potential.
Key factors that enrich relationships are:
- Trust – trust of others is present when they are honest and their actions back up their words (they display integrity). The less trust there is the greater the fear within the relationship.
- Respect – respect arises from the belief that another person is entitled to their own thoughts and feelings and acknowledgement and acceptance of any difference.
- Attentiveness – giving attention to our own and the other person’s feelings and needs, also spending time attending to the relationhip.
- Communication – communicating with honesty and integrity and taking care about how we communicate and how it will be received.
Problems in relationships can arise through loss of trust (betrayal – e.g. an affair, secrets), not allowing time or investing energy in the relationship, a power imbalance, feelings and behaviours following events inside/outside the relationship, dishonesty, unrealistic expectations and unhelpful behaviours and ways of communicating that were learned in our family of origin (that we have never questioned or re-evaluated).
A question I am often asked is, “My partner and I are having problems, do we need couples counselling?”. Sometimes only one person in the relationship is willing to engage in counselling. No matter what brings someone to counselling it’s inevitable that any increased self-awareness will have some kind of effect on relationships. Relationship problems can be explored individually.
Counselling offers a safe place to explore relationships with partners, parents, relatives, children, friends and work colleagues.Of course we can’t change other people but a better understanding of relationship dynamics and our own contribution to the dynamic can allow us to change the way we behave or communicate, ask for our needs to be met or emotionally disengage so we can feel safer.
Relationships need time and energy invested in them as we change and grow throughout our lives and the best place to begin is by looking at our relationship with ourselves and taking it from there.