Over 28 and a half thousand searches on just one counselling/therapist directory about Relationships, Marriage, Affairs and Divorce in January 2013 alone!
In fact for January 2013, November & December 2012 the top search term for all 3 months was Relationship Issues. So what does this mean? It means that if your struggling within your relationship – you are certainly not alone.
It is no secret that relationships can be difficult at times, but what is less obvious is the complexity of relationships. There are so many features to be taken into account when individuals come together such as styles of attachment, family of origin systems, stage of the relationship, sex & sexuality, anger, emotional expression, personal needs, values, the ageing process, external pressures and so the list goes on.
In the early days of a relationship usually, a lot of work goes into getting to know each other verbally, physically and experientially. It is not unreasonable to think that most people are on their ‘best behaviour’ and displaying their most appealing side during those early stages – after all you are not likely to show someone you like those annoying little habits you have straight away right? Time and effort is invested by both parties, trust & intimacy starts to build. Communication is more open because you have to ask the small questions like ‘Do you take sugar?’ or ‘What do you do for fun?’
As time goes on habits and patterns are formed within the relationship and communication in its obvious form becomes less necessary. There is no longer a need to ask questions about the other. Couples start to think for each other, make unconscious assumptions and judgements about what the other person needs, wants or would like. They have conversations in their heads with the other one as there is a sense they can predict the outcome. (Ever felt like you have told your partner something and they then swear that you haven’t?) For most part this can work really well however the danger comes when one party’s ‘needs’ change or are no longer being met by the relationship. Personal growth and development is inevitable at the very least due to the ageing process and our ‘needs’ change with this. When I refer to ‘needs’ I mean that sense within yourself that you are ‘ok’ – do not confuse it with being ‘needy’. The problem can become that the old cycles and patterns within the relationship become staid and unhelpful causing more ill ease for one or both parties. Common feelings might be ‘stuck in a rut’ or ‘he/she doesn’t notice me’. For the 40 something readers you might relate if I said the ‘Shirley Valentine feeling’ kicks in. Resentment builds and those annoying little habits or cute traits become the most impossible things to tolerate.
The truth is Relationships take work and effort and not just in the early days, they are work in progress. Every so often there needs to be a big ‘check in’ to see if you are still both on the same path as well as those smaller regular efforts to keep in touch with each other emotionally. Engaging with a therapist can help you air your feelings in a safe environment and support you to build new patterns that suit the people you are now rather than the people you were when you met.