Many people search on my website because their relationship has run into difficulties and they are looking for help or ideas. The truth is that sustaining a successful romantic relationship is one of the hardest things we will ever do in life. After falling in love and the ‘honeymoon’ period, we all have to work on our relationships. This is because relationships bring up our deepest fears and insecurities. We can even think of relationship problems as our best opportunity to heal our personal issues – that is why we have come together with our partner.
I could offer you some temporary fixes to an ailing relationship, but if we are really going to save it and turn it into a lifetime partnership we must learn how to work on the negative issues that come up between us and a partner. To save a relationship and make it sustainable into the future we must be willing to heal the core issues that have caused it to run into difficulties in the first place.
Unexpressed Fear and Needs
All relationship problems arise from a breakdown in the loving connection between two people. There will always be some negative emotions that have not been expressed in the relationship – it is the fear associated with these, usually unconscious, feelings that destroys the relationship. The unexpressed feelings cause us to separate from our partner because we do not want them to see our negative side in case they reject us. Ironically, this is exactly what our protective strategy brings about!
Out of our fear comes our needs and these create demands on our partners. If there is a problem in a relationship, one or more significant need is NOT being met. Interestingly this will be the same need that your partner also feels is lacking in the relationship. By identifying your unmet needs you can give this same thing to your partner and they will automatically begin to give this same thing back to you. It is even better if you can talk about your fears and needs with your partner in an emotionally mature way. Honest and heartfelt communication is the best way to save a relationship. It can take courage to express your feelings but this is the way forward in a relationship problem. Sometimes it takes time and the help of a third party to do this, so you might consider some counselling. As you communicate about your unmet needs and fears you will find that your partner shares them and any problems will then fall away.
Arguments and Rows
Relationship fights are about who is going to meet the needs of the other person. Given that they are always shared by both partners, you can see how futile this is. To end an argument and prevent others occurring you must be willing to stop the fight over needs and think about what you could give to the relationship to make it better. Such leadership only comes when we recognise the cause of the fights and gain sufficient emotional maturity not to be triggered into anger and attack.
Our judgements about our partners are really our self-judgements. We project out the parts of ourselves that we do not like on the people around us. What are you judging in your partner? What annoys you about them? Perhaps they are always busy at work and you don’t feel they value you. If so, how much do you value yourself and how much quality time do you give to yourself. By working on your own self-esteem (see my website for more ideas) you will become more attractive to your partner. After all, they fell in love with you because of the positive qualities they saw in you – find these again in yourself, embody them with all your senses and start giving them once again.
If you have a spiritual or religious belief you can ask for help and guidance from God (or however you know a divine or spiritual presence in your life). At the core of all relationship problems is a loss of faith in our own spirit and divine, loving connections. In fact we are afraid of this much connection – afraid of a spiritual oneness where there is just love for ourselves, everybody and everything. It seems that we create our relationship problems to avoid accepting our true loving destinies. Any spiritual practice will help with re-connecting with our spirit and help us to find peace and love in our romantic relationships.
I assume you first got together with your partner because you felt so much love for them. At that time you both put aside your fears and needs and discovered unconditional love. Being human means that those fears often return but we can heal them best with a partner providing we are willing and brave enough to go into those areas of pain in our mind that we have hidden away. We avoid expressing our pain because we don’t want our partner to see what we perceive as a weakness – we fear they will reject us and leave us, and yet if we don’t express them the relationship is at great risk. Therefore a willingness to open our hearts and just become more authentic will always reveal the truth in a relationship and allow both partners to grow and take their lives forward.
So what is it that is holding your relationship back? Now is the time to grasp the nettle and open your heart. Feel into your own pain and hidden insecurities and realise that these are also in your partner, but probably cleverly hidden by compensatory behaviour. Your partner needs your help and you currently have more emotional awareness. They need your forgiveness for any failings and your emotional courage to inspire them to heal their own insecurities. Pour your love, appreciation and gratitude onto your partner and re-discover all those things that you adored about them in the beginning.
Peter Granger is an acclaimed relationship counsellor and a Psychology of Vision Trainer (an organisation that specialises in helping people have happier and more fulfilled relationships. You can find lots more advice and tips about love, romance and relationships on www.iloveyouloveme.com