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Why do I experience problems in my relationships?

Relationships can be the source of significant stress and pain for many people, and whilst modern society can increasingly promote self-reliance and individuality, humans are social beings and we all need to be able to navigate relationships effectively. There are many reasons as to why someone may experience difficulties in their relationships with others, not only intimate relationships but also friendships. But why do some people struggle more than others?

Our own attachment patterns
The way in which we relate to other people is intrinsically linked to our own attachment blueprint that developed as a result of the pattern of care we received as an infant. We may find it relatively easy to trust other people, to show them our feelings and share our thoughts, knowing that they will be able to meet our needs effectively and appropriately given the closeness of our relationship with them. Alternatively, we may find it difficult to know how to be with people; we may struggle to understand boundaries and know what we can or cannot expect from someone in relation to meeting our needs.

Past experiences
As a result of our own individual attachment blueprint, we can tend to engage in relationships in similar ways, or end up in repeated patterns within relationships. For example, we may find that we end up taking on the primary caregiving role, abdicating our own needs in favour of those of the other person. We may also end up in repeatedly abusive relationships. This is not our fault and we certainly do not do this on purpose, but it can be hard to know how to break free from these distressing and destructive patterns.

Life changes, transitions and stress
Major life changes such as moving home, job, bereavement and illness can cause significant strain within relationships. It can be hard to balance the needs of each individual as well as the needs within the relationship. We all have our individual ways in which we manage stress and this may be completely at odds with the other person. Life can then become complex, with neither person able to get their needs adequately met so that they can be supported through their own emotional turmoil.

Couples therapy might be something you would want to consider if you are having difficulties within a specific relationship. However, if you find that you experience similar difficulties across a range of different relationships, you may want to explore this in individual therapy.