After anxiety, relationship issues are the most common reason people contact me (although anxiety and relationship issues are not mutually exclusive).
Break-ups and divorces. When relationships end, even bad ones, there is a loss to be mourned. In the immediate future, there is regular wounding from the constant reminders of their absence, from the texts you no longer get to the intimacy you no longer share. Further, reconfiguring shared relationships can be confusing and anxiety provoking. In the longer-range future, mourning the future you imagined, and also recognizing your role in the relationship and its end are critical to successful recovery.
Doubts about existing romantic relationships. Relationships change, and the people within them change. Needs change. Goals change. Tolerances change. And life situations continually teach you new things about yourself, your significant other, and your relationship. Taking time to explore where you and your partner currently are is healthy and helpful, but difficult under conditions where the conclusions you draw are upsetting.
Family difficulties. “Baggage”, old and new, shapes and reshapes relationships within families. Families also have their own psychological ecosystems, which evolve over time. The needs and resources of the individuals, both psychological and material, are rebalanced as family members enter and leave life phases. Some siblings have children, some have robust careers, parents age, and world view and values may change as a result – all these factors (and more) contribute to constant renegotiation and shifting within familial relationships.
Friend and coworker relationships. Although not as widely discussed in popular news and entertainment outlets as romantic and family relationships, relationships with friends and colleagues are extremely important and revealing. Just like romantic relationships, friendships and work relationships change over time, and become more textured with increased shared experiences.
Importantly, patterns found in one type of relationship are often found in others. It’s not unusual to find, for example, that relationships with managers have similarities to relationships with parents, and that relationships with colleagues resemble relationships with siblings. There are often similarities between how difficulties are managed in romantic relationships and friendships. Understanding your defenses (aka coping mechanisms), when and how you employ them, and what triggers them (and why) are important elements of change. Defense mechanisms that worked well for you as a child may have become ingrained in you as an adult, although they now may no longer be useful. Working through past issues that continue to live in your current relationship, and helping foster healthier and more productive defense mechanisms, will help you develop more nourishing and supportive relationships.