Dealing with problems in your personal relationships
Large books and lengthy courses have been created to explore the infinite complexity of human relationships. Problems can arise from a large number of sources and it can frequently need some care to help disentangle the mixture of influences. These problems can be intensified by the pressures from others to form or end a relationship and the general pressures from the media which give an idealised view of couples which is often at odds with the reality many people experience.
Here are some simple guidelines to help you explore and resolve tensions which you may be feeling about relationships.
Do you know what you are looking for in a relationship?
There are many different reasons for entering into a relationship - for companionship; for sexual experience; to have a long-term partner; to create a family and so on. Do you know what you are looking for? Have you discussed this with your partner? If not there is a distinct possibility that you may both end up seriously at cross-purposes.
Are you asking for too much or expecting too little from your relationship?
A good relationship can provide support, sexual expression, companionship and eventually an opportunity to build a joint life. If you are looking to it to provide more than this - for example to give you a sense of purpose and worth or protect you from some deep personal fear - you may be trying to get a partner to provide things that in fact only you can achieve.
If on the other hand a relationship brings you continual grief and unhappiness you may be accepting for yourself a far lower level of interaction than you have a right to expect. In particular no-one deserves to be on the receiving end of physical or sexual violence. Do look for the support you need to change or end a relationship if abuse is happening to you.
Have you got a model for the relationship you are trying to build?
Many people find it helpful to picture a relationship that they admire and to which they wish to aspire. It may be the relationship of someone you know or a fictional one.
Consider how the people in this relationship resolve differences and difficulties. If it is not obvious and the relationship is a real one, ask them. If they have never been seen to have any problems, maybe they are not a terribly realistic model after all!
Finding such a model can be a particularly difficult and important task for gay and lesbian couples.
Can you talk about problems?
In all relationships there are going to be times of serious disagreement, where a conflict of interests has to be resolved. This doesn't mean there is something wrong with the relationship. However, arguing the point out and reaching agreement does take a bit of skill and practice.
Many relationship counsellors suggest the best way to resolve a relationship problem is to speak for up to fifteen minutes about your view of the problem. The other person listens carefully, interrupting only to clarify and to help you express yourself clearly. Then you swap over and the other person takes a similar time to explain their point of view. Finally take half-an-hour to talk together to see if you can resolve the difference. If you don't succeed this time, return to the problem a few days later and try again.
If you are not in the habit of talking in your relationship, it might be interesting to give it a try. Relationships are one of the curious features of human existence and can be well worth exploring.
Golden rules for arguing constructively
- Know why you are arguing before you start
- Devote some time to revolving the problem
- Sit down and make eye contact
- Speak personally about what you feel
- Acknowledge when the other person makes a valid point
- Agree to differ if you cannot agree
- Stick to the matter in hand
- Cease arguing and separate if there is any likelihood of violence
Try not to
- Behave aggressively or disrespectfully
- Argue deliberately to hurt the other person's feelings
- Bring up old unresolved disputes
- Walk away without deciding when discussion will be resumed (unless violence threatens)
- Bring other peoples' opinion in
- Argue about something for more than an hour
- Argue late at night or after drinking
There is a great range of relationships and relationship difficulties. Counselling can be a great help in allowing you to clarify complex relationship problems.
Contact Counselling, Mental Health and Wellbeing for counselling on relationship problems. Non-students and students requiring specialist help or help outside the university environment may prefer to contact Relate or call +44 (0)116 254 3011.
Domestic Violence Helpline www.safedvs.co.uk. Tel 0300 123 0918
Women's Aid Leicestershire Ltd
PO Box 26
Leicester, LE1 1AA, UK
0300 303 1844
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