What are relationship difficulties?

Most of us want to have a happy, unified, long-term relationship in our lives. Whatever our sexuality, culture or age, the idea of a "significant other" is, for many, a sign of a fulfilling life.  A breakdown in that relationship can often lead to great discord, even divorce. Sometimes the spur is a revelation – of an affair, debt or secret – but the problem usually lies deeper than that.

Common causes of relationship difficulties

There are typical patterns that develop in couples, whether married or cohabiting. These include: 

  • neglecting to spend enough pleasurable time together due to such pressures as work and parenting
  • conflict that is allowed to simmer over time
  • failure to manage the difference between the two individuals
  • withdrawal of affection or sex
  • breach of trust (infidelity, secret gambling, telling lies)

Common reasons for seeking help

Women are more likely than men to seek help with their relationship and according to Relate they are looking for a chance to improve communication with their partner, whereas men are more likely to agree to attend counselling sessions in the hope that a permanent break will be averted. Situations that prompt the decision to find someone to talk to include:

  • the discovery of infidelity 
  • redundancy, debt, major life crisis such as a death in the family
  • adult children leaving home

How couples counselling can help

What used to be called marriage guidance is now called couples counselling or relationship counselling and has its own distinctive training; it can be very effective in helping with relationship difficulties. Usually both members of the couple will attend, though sometimes they may also see the counsellor or therapist individually. If there has been violence, the therapist will help you work out the best way forwards. 

Seeking counselling or psychotherapy for problems in your long-term relationship does not mean it is doomed to failure. In fact, 80 per cent of Relate clients said it had made their relationships stronger. Learning better ways to talk to each other, to share parenting and to live together in a mutually beneficial way is well worth the time and emotional effort it will take to work problems through.

Find a couples counsellor

Last updated 22 October 2015