With years of experience as a couples counsellor and an individual therapist, Annie Gurton has seen it all in her therapy room, especially when it comes to relationship woes. However, there are a few key issues that are underlying to most couples’ troubles, and while some may seem obvious, correcting them are essential to mending fractured or broken partnerships.
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1.Lack of communication
The number one complaint is ‘lack of communication’ or ‘poor communication’, which often interprets as ‘I’m not being heard’. This drift and sense of isolation and loneliness usually grows over time if not addressed. Most couples are very connected and communicate well in the early months of a relationship, but as time goes on the degree of communication decreases and there are a lot of assumptions made – couples seem to think that their partner is a mind-reader and able to instinctively know what they are thinking. Obviously, this quickly leads to chaos and pain, so communication problems need to be mended as soon as they present themselves.
2.Lack of passion
The second most common problem that I see is a lack of passion. In the beginnings of a relationship, also known as the Romantic Phase, a couple can barely keep their hands off each other – but this can decline significantly after time, particularly after children arrive, resulting in a couple feeling more like flatmates than lovers. Keeping romance alive is really important, but needs consistent work. The classic solution is to have a regular date night, but this loses effect when it also becomes routine and predictable.
3.Predictable patterns of conflict
I often see couples in which a predictable dynamic or pattern of conflict has developed, often with one being more demanding and wanting to talk about everything in detail and the other wanting to push the other way and side from any conflict. Sometimes I see two similar people together, which can be equally frustrating. To change things, it is necessary for each to step out of their comfortable, predictable behaviour and try and give their partner what they need but have not been receiving. Doing this is a lot easier said than done, and therefore needs the support and guidance of a professional in order to have more constructive conflict.
4.External pressures of modern life
The sense of being overwhelmed by the pressures of modern life is common to most people, and can create tensions particularly in relationships. Many couples have a mortgage or high rent, and may struggle to make ends meet. Again, this can be amplified hugely when kids arrive, income has slashed and child care costs are added. There are also high ideals of perfection being sold to us on social media and in the press. Couples are supposed to be able to afford a modern house with a two-car garage, appliances and regular holidays, they ‘should’ be able to live a perfect life and anything less can be taken very badly. The stress of the constant pressure means that partners often withdraw or ‘exit’ from each other through their devices, sporting activity or work. Many may start drinking to excess or increasing their drug use. Being able to be realistic about life is a mature approach but is seemingly impossible and leads to much conflict and dispute. Being able to effectively re-romance the relationship can have a powerful effect in relieving these pressures.
5.Affairs in the relationship
I often see couples in therapy where one or both parties have had an affair. Sometimes this is the end of the relationship, but the fact that couples brave coming into my therapy room is a really positive sign. They want to get over what has happened and they are trying to heal, and need to come to terms with the fact that their old relationship has gone and they are starting a new one. There is much research to show that an affair can lead to an introspective review of the way the relationship was and a revision of many of the factors, issues and frustrations which were not being dealt with. Trying to make changes and being able to forgive and accept often needs the help of a professional who can hold a safe and confidential space where couples can open up about their inner thoughts and fears.
There are often other relationship problems present, such as trying to blend a new family, overcoming grief and loss, or dealing with addictions and mental health issues – but there is nothing that cannot be overcome with a shared intent and vision. By using a positive therapeutic technique which gives the partners a way to learn to listen so the other can talk and talk so the other can listen, progress can be fast and permanent. Couples can move from being in an unconscious relationship to an aware, conscious one where there is more joy, laughter and happiness. That is what we all deserve, and everyone can achieve it with the right tools.
Annie Gurton has created a powerful course specifically to help heal broken relationships and to give you the tools to reignite the passion that is now replaced by anger, jealousy, arguments and distance. Take her powerful love quiz now to see where you are in your relationship. Find out more on how you can Reignite Your Relationship with Annie Gurton here.