A common problem brought to therapy is bewilderment as to why friends and potential romantic partners repeatedly leave us. Often, there is a clear pattern of new relationships going well for a time and then we suddenly get a sense of having been dropped. How can psychotherapy and counselling help?
What Am I Doing Wrong?
Common reasons for relationship breakdown include:
- expecting too much from others, or
- not expecting enough
- being young
- being defensive
- unconsciously picking people who are unavailable
Am I Asking Too Much? Or Asking Too Little?
In our efforts to connect to someone are we inadvertently pushing them away? If we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes it can become irritating or embarrassing if we are giving too much of ourselves, putting our own needs last every time, or overdoing presents and favours. Conversely, we might be asking too much of another person, perhaps demanding that they support us on our terms, rather than giving them the opportunity to decide for themselves how much they are prepared to give.
Am I In A Period Of Transition?
From around the age of 18 to our mid-thirties we may be surrounded by people who are also trying to find themselves, establish a career and look for a partner. Young people tend to move around a lot and some are not interested in maintaining friendships when it becomes difficult to meet up. Or they may simply have tired of certain activities and are pursuing other goals. We might also lack relationship experience and have a tendency to strongly attach to people with whom we don’t have much in common, perhaps because they happen to be available rather than because we actually enjoy being in their company. After a while, these are the relationships that will start to flounder.
Am I Defensive?
People may leave (or leave us out) if they have come to the conclusion that there is no point in challenging our behaviour. Maybe we refuse to listen or dismiss their concerns as unimportant. If we are doing something which other people find difficult to deal with (e.g. repeatedly monopolising conversations) and there is no room for negotiation or even an acknowledgement that we might be playing a part in what is going wrong, after a time friends, lovers and family members might become frustrated and leave the relationship or distance themselves emotionally. Often, being defensive about our behaviour and its impact on others is more destructive than the behaviour itself.
Am I Trying To Repair Something From My Past?
A common phenomenon uncovered in therapy is unconsciously trying to repair an important relationship from the past with a different person in the present. For example, if as a child we have had a parent who was often unavailable – emotionally or physically – this might leave us drawn to people who find it difficult to commit. We might also find it challenging to bear being in a healthy relationship and will push people away whose behaviour towards us, although loving, may be unfamiliar.
How Can Counselling And Psychotherapy Help?
If you are experiencing problems making lasting and fulfilling connections with others, counselling and psychotherapy can provide a safe and supportive space in which to explore what might lie behind such difficulties and how you might be unwittingly contributing to them. Once a clearer picture emerges, together we will think about possibilities for changing the existing patterns and regulating the emotions associated with them. This might also involve experimenting with behaving differently in certain situations.
If you live or work within reach of Brighton and Hove and my approach to psychotherapy and counselling interests you, please contact me via email or telephone 07585 910742 for more information and to arrange an initial consultation. Emailing in the first instance seems to work best.
Copyright Caroline Clarke, Counselling and Psychotherapy in Brighton and Hove, Sussex.
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