Sometimes it can be challenging to stay in the relationships.
You’ve lost relationships in the past and you don’t want it to happen again. You want to know how can you maintain relationships with friends, family or an intimate partner. Could psychotherapy help you improve your relationships so that you don’t have any difficulty staying in love?
The answer is yes. Psychotherapy can address some common issues that effect our ability to maintain relationships.
So many problems in relationships stem from communication problems. It’s not just about expressing yourself clearly, it’s also about how you hear what someone else is saying to you. You hear what someone is saying through the white noise of your own feelings and past experiences. This noise in your head can distort what you hear. Misunderstandings of this nature can lead to reactions that lead to counter-reactions and a cycle of miscommunication escalates into a fight.
If your attempts to communicate with each other repeatedly fail to fulfill their purpose, which is usually a desire for greater closeness, than you may withdraw from each other, increasing the distance between you, causing the problem to grow, unresolved. Consequently, you may begin to feel hopeless about how you will be able to work together as a team.
In the best relationships, you’re able to be honest and share your feelings, knowing that you will able to talk it out and stay in love.
Learn how to express yourself and hear others. Group therapy and couples therapy, improve your communication skills with others.
Dealing with Conflict
Conflict is inevitable in relationships. Different people will always have times where their different perspectives or desires clash. How you work through these conflicts can make or break a relationship. One way is to “win” the conflict by over-powering your partner and getting your way. Another is to avoid the conflict by giving in to the other’s will. A third way is for you to separate and both do it your way. And the fourth way is to continue to try to find a compromise that works for both of you.
There’s an appropriate time for any of these styles of conflict resolution. In fact being able to resolve conflicts in all of these ways gives you a greater success rate than if you’re only capable of ending a fight in one way. If you’re always the one to “give in” and are never the one who “wins”, it will create a unequal balance of power in your relationships, causing all sorts of negative feelings and behaviors in the relationship. Inequality stirs resentment, loneliness, punishing behaviors and possibly the desire to find a more equitable relationship.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I help people learn how to productively work through conflict. The key to a happy relationship is not avoiding conflict but learning how to work through it. Working through conflict in a positive way can actually make your relationships stronger and more connected.
Vulnerability in Relationship
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in a relationship with someone or how well they know you, there’s always some level of vulnerability possible in relationships. Even with a mother who wiped your butt as a baby and watched you grow up, there will be things that you will feel vulnerable sharing with her.
Unconsciously, we are all seeking people that we can be vulnerable with.
Vulnerable are those feelings or memories deep inside of us that we only let out to a chosen few. We feel the greatest connection to those that we feel safe enough to share those delicate feelings with. Being vulnerable and finding acceptance and understanding is a powerful experience. In fact, it feels like love.
Consequently, being vulnerable and experiencing rejection, hurts. Past rejections can make you anxious about revealing yourself to others.
Even people that love you can mishandle your attempts at vulnerability. Especially if they’re unaware that what you’re sharing is vulnerable for you. Some people don’t dare to be vulnerable with anyone. Over time this can have a damaging effect on you and your relationships. Hiding your vulnerability can be depressing and lonely for you and those that want to be closer to you.
The happiness and security of your relationships depend on how vulnerability is expressed and received. Sometimes, vulnerability is discouraged by your family or culture. Men have long been encouraged to be the strong silent types, withholding their feelings, and many men are still controlled by that societal belief.
One of the great benefits of psychotherapy is the confidential environment where you can release some of these withheld feelings to make it easier to share these parts of yourself with the people who love you.
It can be vulnerable to let other people know what you need from them. Whether you need a hug or you need them
History of Trauma or Hurtful Relationships
Traumatic experiences in your past can effect your relationships in the present. Anyone who has been hurt, fears being hurt again. The trauma of the past alters the way you think about yourself and others, keeping you on edge, searching for signs of danger.
We have a tendency to put our past into our future, imagining that what happened before will happen again. That imagining can be like a self-fulfilling prophecy, producing the results in your current relationships that you most fear.
But you don’t have to let the past decide the future. In therapy you develop the ability to listen to your feelings more accurately; identifying which of those feelings are based on the reality of your present experience and which are old feelings influenced by your trauma or hurtful relationships of the past. Being able to differentiate trauma feelings from other feelings can give you the freedom to choose the way you react to those feelings.
Therapy can help you discover how the past is pulling your strings so that you don’t have to be a puppet anymore.
Low self-esteem can mess up your relationships in a number of different ways.
If you don’t feel good about yourself, you may allow people to treat you badly. Eventually, you may have to leave those unsatisfying relationships. Or the other person leaves you because it doesn’t feel good to them either.
A negative self-image causes depression, stripping you of the energy and joy that attracts people to you.
Being insecure about your value as a person, makes you anxious and fearful of rejection. This anxiety can cause you to behave in inauthentic or manipulative ways such as trying to secure love through gift-giving and caregiving, suppressing yourself to avoid doing anything that may make others upset with you. Insecurity can make you twist yourself up like a pretzel trying to be what you think others want you to be, denying yourself and others the privilege of getting to know the real, good person that you truly are.
Counseling can help you dismantle the faulty belief system that convinced you that you have no value, freeing you to love yourself, and in turn, allowing you to more authentically relate to others.
Problematic behaviors such as substance abuse, unhealthy expressions of anger, infidelity, emotional unavailability, sexual anxiety and so on can lead to repeated relationship ruptures and loss. These behaviors, if untreated, can overshadow everything wonderful about you and limit your ability to be your best in your relationships. Some behaviors are so dangerous for your loved ones, either physically, emotionally or financially, that they have to leave you in order to protect themselves; even if they really don’t want to.
Often it’s a vicious circle with these problematic relationships: the lack of secure relationships triggers the problematic behaviors and then the problematic behaviors get in the way of building healthy relationships.
You are more than these problematic behaviors. They don’t need to run the show and take away your ability to maintain loving relationships. But they do need to dealt with in order for you to have the kind of relationships that will sustain you.
As strange as it may sound, you developed problematic behaviors as a way of coping with difficulties in life. They provide some kind of relief from depression or anxiety. For example, substances numb emotional pain. Outbursts of anger momentarily releases your fear and pain. Emotional unavailability insulates you from further injury.
But the costs outweigh the gains. The damage to your body, your self-esteem and your relationships is far greater than the temporary relief from emotional pain. However, if you don’t have alternative, healthy coping skills to relieve that emotional pain, you’re going to continue using those destructive coping skills and suffering the consequences.
Therapy can help you understand this dynamic in yourself. Through gentle exploration and expression of your feelings, you work through the depression, anxiety, fear and anger that is the root cause of these damaging coping skills and discover new, healthier ways to relieve the pain, anger and fear that you feel. Having healthy coping skills and being able to regulate your emotions without hurting yourself or other people will allow you to have the relationships that you desire.
Dealing with Change
The longer you’re in a relationship the more likely you will experience change. Change is natural and inevitable. If embraced and accepted, you and the people that you’re in relationship with, will grow together and your relationships will evolve in interesting and rewarding ways. In contrast, fear of change and resisting change can stifle and suffocate you or your partner.
It’s understandable to resist change. People resist change because they fear the unknown. They worry about how this change will effect their relationship. Even positive changes like your partner’s excitement about a new career or hobby can cause you anxiety. You’re anxious that if you let your loved ones explore the world, gaining new interests, developing new friendships, they will become so different that you will lose what you once had. For example, a parent has to allow a child to grow and become independent in order to have a good relationship with that child as an adult. If a parent continues to treat them as if they were still a child; the child will naturally have to distance themselves in order to protect their own growth and development.
It’s also understandable that you would be afraid to see your loved ones going through difficult changes such as health issues, depression or anxiety. You’re afraid that you will lose them to that dark place instead of having them return to the happy person you enjoyed. However, your fear and resistance can make what they’re going through more difficult for both of you. Denying what their going through, pushing them to be their old self, can create distance in your relationship as the person cannot be how you want them to be and has to go through what they’re going through in order to get to the other side.
Psychotherapy helps you accept change, so that you can flow with it instead of fighting a losing battle against it.
If you’re interested in learning how psychotherapy can help you, contact Rena Pollak, LMFT for a free 15 minute phone consultation. I have a private practice in Encino and Calabasas.