All relationships begin differently. Some people are friends to begin with and then they pursue a deeper sense of connectedness. Other relationships begin with an amorous slant where you fall in love with someone very early on and the relation becomes dependent on the love being present. There are relationships that begin with sex and then people try to build connections from that initial attraction. And there are still many people in the world who enter into arranged marriages. None are right or wrong, just right or wrong for the people involved.
Relationships, however, need to evolve beyond the initial stages. Not only must they continue to grow through the years, thinking that you are in a relationship that it is guaranteed for the future, will only end in tears. People, circumstances and life change constantly, so your relationship must grow and change over the years to accommodate those changes. People get into trouble when they become out of step and out of touch with each other, which leads to disagreements, arguments, unhappiness and often anger.
Because you are in the relationship looking out, you often do not have a detached, objective point of view about how a relationship may be failing. You are emotionally attached to the situation and when emotions are involved, often logic can go out the window. You may begin to think you are right and the other person is wrong and haven’t we all?
So it is a really good idea, if your relationship is in trouble, to get professional help. Marriage and couples therapists are trained to look at your relationship objectively. They have no emotional involvement in whether you stay together or separate but they may be able to analyse why the systems that held the relationship together in the first place may be failing and suggest ways you can operate differently, both as individuals and as a couple.
Sometimes both people in the relationship decide they want professional help and come along willing to do the work that is required to make the changes. In other cases only one person may want to come in to relationships counselling and the other is vehemently against the idea. The latter may not believe in therapy or have something to hide from their partner that they do not want to come out in therapy. Sometimes people just do not want outsiders having anything to do with their relationship, even if it is falling to pieces and separation or divorce is the next step. They would rather sacrifice their relationship and be right, than get professional help.
When my car breaks down, I call the mechanic. I travel all the way across town to the dentist who has looked after my teeth for years. I never do my own accounts but employ a highly qualified professional who knows exactly how to file my taxes. I could go on but I guess you get the idea. Seeing a relationship counsellor can help save your relationship, but only if that is what you both honestly and truly want.
The only reason you should seek out marriage guidance or couples therapy is if you honestly want to continue that relationship. If you do decide that is what you want, be prepared to change and to do your relationship differently in future because that is what it will take to have a different relationship and one in which you can all be happy.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, ND is an individual, couples and family therapist. She works with what is called systemic family therapy which is not based on any specific philosophy but on examining how relationships have been working and need to change.