According to the UK charity Relate's latest report, almost one in five (18%) couples in the UK argue regularly or consider separating. These people were described as being in "distressed relationships". The figure for parents of children under 16 was higher at 22%.
Most relationships will hit problems sooner or later. That is normal. But it can be very distressing when the same problems keep cropping up or get worse so that the loving relationship which once brought you joy now brings you hurt and stress.
One of the issues highlighted by the report was that couples don't seek help or if they do, they wait until it is too late to save the relationship. I think it can be particularly hard when only one partner recognises that there is a problem or is prepared to seek help.
So, how can we be authentic about any issues in our relationship? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Be honest with yourself.
If we are truthful we often know that things aren't 100% in our relationship but sometimes we need to pause for a moment and reflect as to what is going on. If we are too busy and keep telling ourselves we will deal with it tomorrow or when a quieter days comes (which often never comes!) we might wake up one day and discover that it really is too late. Most relationship problems can be overcome but it will be much easier to deal with them if you catch them early and take action sooner rather than later.
2. Be honest with your partner.
We can't expect our partner to read our minds and just know why we are upset or finding things difficult. We need to talk to them as early as possible before problems escalate in our mind. Try not to accuse them or to use generalisations like "you always" or "you never". Instead try to use the word "we" and look for ways that the two of you can improve the situation.
3. Invest in your relationship.
Prevention is always better than cure... so if you can try and invest in your relationship before you have big problems. Read books, go on courses, seek out older or wiser couples to learn from and take the time to re-charge and re-connect, just the two of you. Don't be afraid to seek professional help if you are unable to work through a problem yourselves.
4. Hold onto hope.
I have interviewed and coached many couples who have turned around their relationship against what looked like insurmountable odds. If you are experiencing problems, it doesn't mean that your relationship is over or wasn't right from the beginning. Plenty of issues can be worked through and many couples who do persevere find that their relationship is stronger in the long term as they re-discover their love and connection in both fresh and deeper ways. If you choose to stay and improve your relationship, then surround yourself with people who are "for" your decision and will help you to make it work.
5. Make decisions from a place of clarity.
We may have all been tempted to utter the "D" word in moments of anger or sadness but unless we really intend to get divorced, it is best to avoided as a threat. When we are angry, upset, tired, hungry or hormonal, it will be much harder to think clearly and make rational decisions because too much cortisol is charging around our brains. When we are experiencing negative emotions we are more likely to perceive greater ill intent on our partner's behalf and make up stories in our heads about the reasons behind our partner's behaviour. And those stories are never good ones! My recommendation is to not make hasty decisions and certainly not any big ones until you are feeling more calm, peaceful and connected. You are then much more likely to think clearly and have a truer picture of how things are.
Recently, I collaborated with Psychologies magazine and created a 30 day online course for anyone who wants to improve, help or even save their relationship. You don't need to have your partner do it with you. It is something you can start today and take steps to creating an authentic love that lasts. The first three days are free so why not try it out? Here is the link - https://lifelabs.psychologies.co.uk/courses/71