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Relationships

Humans are social creatures and are hard-wired from birth to attach to others for survival. But relationships can be complicated and difficult to manage at times, whether as a couple, a family or in other contexts, such as friendships or work-related as colleagues.

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Types of relationship problems

Divorce

The break-up of a marriage, often also the break-up of a family, is a difficult period even for couples who are parting amicably. For couples and individuals who will, are, or have been through a divorce, talking to a therapist can help manage feelings of loss, and create space to explore what life might look like after divorce. 

Estrangement

Sometimes when there is conflict within families – whether open or unspoken – people might find themselves drifting away from their parents, children or siblings. Some people even make a conscious decision to ‘cut someone off’ by not talking to them, avoiding them refusing to talk to them or doing something else to push them away (such as withdrawing childcare or cutting them out of a will). Therapy can help people who are estranged cope with the loss of a relationship, and it can help people address problems that risk ending good relationships.

Affairs

Infidelity can be painful and damaging, but it can also reveal things in relationships that felt impossible to say. Therapy can help couples recover after unfaithfulness, and it can also support people whose relationships end after their own or their partner’s affair.

Sexual problems

Intimacy is vital in any relationship, and so when one or both partners stops feeling close to the other, it can help to talk to a therapist about what might be getting in the way. 

Break-ups

The end of a relationship, whether it is expected or not, creates a sense of loss of what a couple had together, and what might have been if the relationship had continued. Therapy is a safe place to open up about loss, how to cope with the end of a relationship, and what this new life might be like. 

Relationship problems after mid-life changes

Changes in our families, bodies, jobs and values are inevitable in life, but some feel harder to cope with than others. Therapists are experienced in talking to people about how milestones such as menopause, vasectomy, retirement, children leaving home, bereavement and others affect us, change us, and remind us of experiences we might have forgotten. 

Relationship problems after abuse

Abusive relationships raise questions about what happened, how, and when a person will feel ‘normal’ again. Where the abuse is current, recent, or happened a while ago, therapists are trained to make room for difficult questions, and listen without judgement. 

Relationship problems after trauma

Bereavement, violence and loss can have a huge impact on a relationship. Therapy for couples, individuals and families helps people find a way to talk about what happened, discuss methods for coping, and explore ideas around recovery. 

Relationship problems and addiction

Living with addiction is a struggle for anyone, and in a relationship it can create stress, distances and distrust. Therapists are trained to provide confidential and non-judgemental support to couples, families and individuals struggling with addiction, so that clients feel supported when times are tough. 

Relationship problems and debt

Money is a powerful tool in couples, families and workplaces, but debt is an aspect that still carries a shameful stigma. Relationship therapists are familiar with the ways in which financial stressors affect clients, and provide a non-judgemental space for conversations about coping. 

Are we having relationship problems? 

If a romantic or family relationship changes suddenly, or people stop communicating, sometimes the problem might resolve itself. But when the problem continues or gets worse, the relationship usually needs an intervention or outside help.

Whether or not there is a clear stressor, it can help to have a therapist to talk to. 

Is my family normal?

There is no such thing as a normal family, and it’s normal to question. But if a person worries that their family is abusive, traumatic or exploitative, therapists can help manage how to cope.

Is my relationship normal? 

No two relationships are the same, but if someone worries that their relationship is abusive, talking to a therapist can help explore doubts about it, and find a way to make independent decisions on what kind of relationship to aim for. 

How do I cope with problems with my partner or my family?

Therapy for relationship problems

Seeing a therapist as a couple, a family or an individual, helps cope with the pain of the problems, and creates a confidential space to talk about things that might have felt too hard to discuss without help. 

Relationship problems are not mental health problems, but stressful relationships – especially abusive relationships – may increase the chances of developing depression or anxiety. 

Help and information about family and relationship problems

Relate

A British counselling service that offers information on sex, relationships and parenting. 

relate.org.uk

Click here to see practitioners who specialise in relationships.