Why relationships go wrong

Relationships can be the most rewarding and most frustrating areas of our lives.

Very few of us have been shown how to have a good relationship. It is not surprising, then, that sooner or later problems surface.

Even though your intentions are good, you often lack the knowledge and insight into what has happened and how you have got into such a stuck place.

If you have been experiencing difficulties in your relationship for some time, and trying what you know to improve things, it can be easy to begin to feel hopeless, and helpless.

While most people find it easy to see how their partner is contributing to the problems, it’s not so easy to see how you are.

Most of us begin a relationship hoping that all our emotional needs will be met by our partner. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. That’s our natural narcissism.

This is inevitably followed by disappointment, as we discover this is not and will not be the case. Our relationship shows us through pain what we need to develop in ourselves first and foremost before we can truly love our partner.

From my study of Relationships over many years, I have discovered that there seem to be 4 key factors that form the core of why our relationships can go awry

1. Your relationship with yourself.
sydney marriage counselling for healthy relationships

Interestingly, your relationship with your partner has more to do with your relationship with yourself than anything else. That doesn’t mean how self centred or selfish you are. It refers to your level of self esteem, solid sense of self, or differentiation.

How do you know if you have a good relationship with yourself, or are psychologically mature?

  • You have a clear and solid sense of yourself (you change your beliefs from within, not by coercion)
  • You are responsible for yourself, your life, and your emotions (you are not a victim)
  • You know your boundaries and you don’t let your partner violate them and control you in any way
  • You are aware of, and let go of, any controlling, manipulating or coercion of your partner.
  • You let go of expecting your partner to meet all your emotional needs ( your narcissism)
  • You know what you need and can take care of your own needs
  • You know what you want in your relationship.
  • You know what you will and won’t tolerate in your relationship.
  • You hold dear and take a stand for what you want
  • You are aware of your emotions and take responsibility for them
  • You don’t argue or over-react.
  • You are willing to tolerate discomfort for growth

The better the relationship you can develop with yourself, the more you can love your partner, and the more passionate and desiring you are of him/her. This is desire out of fullness, rather than out of need. 

And in your relationship:

  • You love and respect your partner as different from you
  • You openly share how you think and feel (even if he/she doesn’t validate you)
  • You listen and want to understand your partner
  • You want to share your life with your partner
  • You see your partner for who he/she is.
  • You desire your partner sexually out of fullness, rather than need
  • You feel free to be yourself with your partner

relationship counselling sydney for happy relationships

Most people have not developed a good relationship with themselves.

The more insecure you are in yourself, the more you are going to want to either control your partner (which naturally causes conflict), or let your partner control you (which causes resentment, or “getting back”).

This is the single biggest factor in relationship, intimacy and sexual problems.

So a large part of making your relationship happy, vibrant and intimate is being able to recognize either when you are being controlling, (and decide to let go of that behaviour), or when you are  allowing yourself to be controlled against your wishes, (and decide to stand up for yourself).

A most common occasion that we exert control over our partner is in our communication. You might like to check, which of the following ways has your communication been controlling lately?

  • Pressure to change – tell partner that he/she is wrong/how to behave or my way is the right way
  • Attacks, put downs, criticisms
  • Annihilate, unsettle, undermine, deliberately confuse
  • Frighten with displays of anger and rage
  • Blame and complain
  • Ask for something and expect to get
  • Manipulate through guilt
  • Rescue, fix, sooth
  • Judge
  • Be dismissive
  • Give with strings attached
  • Be arrogant and contemptuous
  • Be pushy
  • Use threats

Or the more subtle ones:

  • Withdraw
  • Shut down
  • Reject
  • Be precious, over-react
  • Be stubborn
  • Procrastinate

To have the best relationship you can have with yourself, you can ask yourself:

  • Am I prepared to stop my controlling ways?
  • What ways am I being controlled by my partner? Is he/she prepared to stop them?
  • How do I “get my partner back” for his/her controlling me?
  • To what extent am I looking after my own needs?
  • What would I like to be different in our relationship?
  • Am I closing down sexually? If so, why?

2. Your Personality Type

personality differences relationship counselling sydney

Understanding your personality type in more depth can give you a huge insight into how you are contributing to the problems you are experiencing.

I have found the Enneagram with its 9 types offers both a brief and in-depth insight into your strengths and also your limitations. Also, how you are either trying to control your partner, or allowing yourself to be controlled, as well as a personal growth path for overcoming your limitations, and reaching your fullest potential as an individual. You can also start to understand your partner in a whole new way.

To learn more about each of the 9 personality types, check out the free article “How do I contribute to our problems

If you’d like to understand more about both your personality and your partner’s and how they interact, and how you can bring out the best in each other, we have designed some special sessions either in-house or by phone of Skype.

3. Knowing and managing your emotions and Communication.

communication marriage counselling sydney

All poor communication is created because very few people really know what’s going on inside them emotionally.

This lack of awareness unwittingly leads you to acting out defensive patterns on your partner and others. So it can be hugely helpful to become more aware of, and manage well, your emotions, sharing them with your partner when appropriate.

We have developed a simple process which can have you managing your inner states and communicating well with your partner with just a little practice.

Give us a ring and make an appointment if you would like help with your communication. We have 70 Relationship Psychologists across Australia. One near you.


4. The Masculine/Feminine difference.

masculine feminine differences in marriage

It’s the subject of more jokes than any other topic. It is true that, in many ways, the male and female brain are wired differently, and we can be thankful of that because the magnetic attraction you feel for each other gives your relationship juice and vibrancy, along with bringing a breadth to your relationship.

Actually, we all have some masculine and feminine in us, but most people find that, in essence, they are predominately one or the other.

Here are some of the differences:

The Masculine: The Feminine
Pushes and guides Invites and attracts
Has direction in the world Is at home in life, love & sensual  pleasure
Protects and provides Nurtures
Under stress, can become detached Under stress, can become more emotional
Gives less when he receives more Gives more when she receives less
Won’t let the score become uneven Will give more than she gets
Contracted awareness : focus on self Expansive awareness : responsive to others
Blames others first Blames themselves first
Needs time to mull over thoughts Needs a listening ear to share feelings
Will punish if criticized Will induce guilt
Withdraws, grumbles and shuts down when stressed Becomes overwhelmed, over-reacts and exhausted when stressed
Needs appreciation, trust and acceptance Needs respect, care and understanding

An essential part of making your relationship work well is to honour, value and understand the inherent differences and gifts we each can bring to the relationship, rather than judge and devalue them.

It is a smart man who appreciates the beauty, love and rich emotional life his wife brings into his life, and a wise woman who appreciates the strength, direction and protection her man so willingly gives her.


Why put in the effort in your relationship?

Through your continued efforts in working through your relationship problems and conflicts, you grow your own psychological maturity.

If both of you can do this, you can develop a relationship with your partner of true equality, mutual respect, equal energy exchange and input, and equal willingness to grow, where renewed romance, intimacy and playful sexuality abound.

Couples who have achieved this kind of relationship overwhelmingly feel that it was well worth the ride to get there.

smart relationship counselling sydney

The fact that you have taken the time to understand and address your relationship issues, and along with a willingness to try new things, means that you have a high chance of successfully re-creating your relationship anew, and often one that is better than you have ever had before.

It is our privilege to help you in your process.

If you would like help in assessing your relationship and what might be causing your relationship difficulties, please call us or check search our psychologists from the right hand bar. Relationships are our specialty and we would love to help you.

Julie Hart

Search our Therapists Near you

Types of Counselling

Search our Therapists Near you

Types of Counselling