RelationshipHuman society seems hardwired for relationships. Watching young children play they naturally form alliances and regularly fall out. They have best friends who can quickly become enemies. It would seem then that we are programed to have relationships.

It perhaps seems obvious why we might want a relationship with others there is a sense of belonging something that gives us positive strokes and perhaps nourishes our lives. Of course there are different degrees of relationship some are of acquaintances and some of lifelong partners.  Like so many things in life though, the life of a relationship is not simple nor static. They can grow and they can die, it might be suggested that they have a life cycle of their own and that problems can occur for all of us as our relationships form, move to a steady state, deepen and end.

Relationships start in many ways, often a couple will have an unusual story about how they met, perhaps by a series of coincidences, perhaps their eyes met across a crowded room. At this stage there is attraction, you may be initially drawn to physical characteristics or some shared interest but there is a bond that links you.

You continue to see the person and your relationship begins to deepen and grow. You perhaps begin to ask their opinion or share aspects of your life. Perhaps you are considering if you would be compatible in the longer term.

There is a transition where you begin to have a life as a couple, where you consider the other person as much as yourself, you share everything there is that heady feeling of being in love of wanting to spend time with your partner. While you are having a relationship in the real world there is a sense of unreality, where nothing can damp your enthusiasm.

The relationship begins to settle down and there is less time spent together. The time getting to know each other, often turns to assumption as to what the other thinks. There will be parts of your life where you spend time apart perhaps doing hobbies or having separate friends. You will still communicate and this is one of the key skills in keeping the relationship going; to prize and value your partner. There is a danger that the relationship will break down at this stage as problems appear, not exciting enough, changes in individuals and so forth

The relationship finally comes to an end. Of course this need not be divorce or separation. This can be the death of a partner.  But the loss of a partner can be a hammer blow to self-identity and self-worth.

At each of these stages we face challenges; it can be unrequited love or loving someone while trapped in a marriage. It can be anger or problems in a relationship; it can be an affair and trying to repair the relationship. It can be the breakdown and loss associated with the end of a relationship. All of these are the bread and butter of the relationship counsellor who can help you navigate the choppy waters.