When do you think these difficulties started?
It is important to recognise when things began to change. On the other hand you might realise that to some extent it has always been like this but it is only now that you recognise that.
Think back to the time when things began to change what else was happening around that time?
Life events make different demands on different people and individuals respond differently to the same events, often we don’t realise the impact this can have on how we feel as a couple. These events might include a new baby especially a first baby; changes at work, losing a job or being promoted; a house move to an unfamiliar area; children leaving home; serious illness, caring for elderly or sick relatives or the death of a parent.
How have these events changed how you and your partner spend time together and/or communicate with each other?
Most couples, consciously or not, have regular ways that they show their care for and communicate with each other. These may part of daily life, a cup of tea in bed in the morning, a lift to the station, a chat in the bathroom. These small rituals are important in keeping the relationship ‘oiled’ and for both partners to feel reassured and affirmed.
How did you meet and get together and what was it that first attracted you to each other?
Look back to what was happening for each of you when you met and think about your expectations of each other. You might have imagined each other would bring new opportunities or offer something that was missing in the other. Maybe one of you seemed warm, expressive and sociable when the other was feeling low or lonely or maybe one of you helped the other sort out practical problems or manage a difficulty at work; perhaps you saw each other as very funny, clever or sexy. One of you might have recently been left or left a relationship and have had high hopes that this one would be very different.
These questions begin to reveal the underlying hopes, dreams and expectations in a relationship. These may have been unrealistic at the start, or they can become fixed and out of date. Thinking about disappointment is painful and it is easy to blame the other person for failing to live up to expectations or for changing, “You used to be thoughtful and sensitive!” “You used to care about me!” Life events make an impact and the picture keeps changing. Things that seemed important have drifted into the background, something new is brightly lit in the foreground and you can sense things emerging at the edges.
As a couple it is important to be responsive to life and what it brings for each of you, to give yourselves opportunities to reimagine what you want to create together as a couple.
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy is a collective of experienced psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors working with a range of client groups, including fellow therapists and health professionals. If you would like more information, or an informal discussion please get in touch. Online therapy is available.