When people talk about relationship problems, they’re often referring to issues affecting a relationship with a partner. But obviously relationship difficulties can also be with (other) family members, work colleagues, friends or general acquaintances. Whatever the case, few would dispute that relationships are a central part of human life and can bring us some of our deepest experiences of fulfilment or misery. As you’ll see below, relationships are also at the heart of analytic psychotherapy.

What are the commonest problems in relationships?

Some of the most frequent relationship difficulties centre around:

  • Trust
  • Communication
  • Mutual respect, attentiveness and consideration
  • Infidelity
  • Sexual problems
  • Prolonged stress, traumatic events, illness
  • Differences in values and beliefs
  • Changing over time
  • Manipulation
  • Money
  • Conflict
  • Prioritizing the relationship
  • Criticism
  • Addiction
  • Over-use of the internet and social media
  • Taking responsibility and division of labour
  • Jealousy
  • Lack of support
  • The birth of a baby
  • The death of a child
  • Approaches to child-rearing and ‘blended’ families
  • Mental health issues
  • Emotional abuse and domestic violence
  • Unrealistic expectations

The causes of relationship problems and how I work with them

Beyond the areas given above, the causes of relationship difficulties are so diverse that it would be very hard to try and list them all. The same goes for the ways in which I work with them. It depends on the particular problem.

However, some general points can be made. I work with individuals, either one-to-one or in groups. I don’t currently offer couples therapy or relationship counselling but I do often take people into therapy who come with relationship issues as the presenting problem. Frequently it turns out that other things are going on under the surface and we also explore those. Analytic psychotherapy is about working with the problems underlying the relationship issues rather than giving relationship advice

For example, if someone has an emotionally abusive partner, we will look at dynamics that may be at work beyond conscious awareness. Why has the person chosen someone who hurts them? What might be repeating from the person’s own history including childhood and adolescent experiences? Might the person themselves paradoxically be contributing to an abusive relationship or even unwittingly getting something out of it? Might each partner be unconsciously putting disowned parts of themselves into the other person? What, in short, needs to happen to develop a healthy relationship?

Also, at a general level, I work with a wide range of psychological conditions, most of which will impact on relationships in one way or another. For instance, obsessive-compulsiveness, tendencies to withdraw from life, an impulse to be overly dependent, depression, anxiety, self-defeating behaviour and so on can’t help but affect relationships – sometimes hugely.

Relationships are at the heart of analytic psychotherapy

These psychological difficulties and many, many more don’t get created in a vacuum. Along with much of our personalities, they’re created in relationships – often family relationships. So relationship issues are the ever-present subject matter of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Although psychotherapy isn’t a quick fix it offers the possibility, through a therapeutic relationship with an analyst or with the members of a therapy group, of inner change and improved relationships in the outside world. In an analytic group, for example, current patterns of relating to people get played out and can be ‘paused’, thought about and modified. A group is a ‘laboratory of life’ for relationships!

Other pages which may be of interest

For more information about Addiction counselling and therapy
For information on Anger and anger management therapy
See our blog post: Ever Been Bullied by a Putin?