5 mins

Could you benefit from a relationship health check?

Reignite your love life, with a relationship health check

After all the excitement of Christmas winds down, problems in relationships tend to surface. This might be because couples find themselves in each other’s pockets, as they’ve taken annual leave at the same time, or perhaps the coming together of two families caused arguments. Sometimes this time of year highlights a fundamental inequality between partners – with one person thinking “but we always go to your family on Christmas, why can’t we go to mine?”

In this article, we’re going to explore the issues couples typically face at this time of year, and how we can help get your relationship back on track.

Questions to determine the health of your relationship

If you feel something isn’t quite right, then ask yourself the following questions, and see what comes to mind:

  • How cared for do you feel by your partner?
  • Do you feel listened to by your partner?
  • Do you feel understood by your partner?
  • Does your partner do little things during the day to show they care?
  • How valued do you feel by your partner?
  • How much positive feedback does your partner give you, versus criticism?

While it’s natural for couples to find themselves in regular routines after a few years of being together, when there is too much distance in a relationship, it can be difficult to unearth the problems between the two of you alone. By seeking professional help, not only can you resolve any problems that may have been swept under the rug, you can rekindle some of those early feelings that brought the two of you together in the first place.

What kind of dance are you and your partner in?

In therapy, one thing we look at is the dance that you and your partner have formed over the years. Perhaps one of you pursues and the other retreats. Or when there are arguments, one of you prefers to thrash it out verbally, while the other prefers to go for a walk, or a long drive, to get away for a bit.

As Harriet Lerner notes in her book The Dance of Intimacy, “substantive change in important relationships rarely comes about through intense confrontation. Rather, it more frequently results from careful thinking and from planning small, manageable moves based on a solid understanding of the problem, including our own part in it.”

Another big question, are you invested in making it work?

From our experience of working with couples over the years, we’ve found high-conflict couples are in a better position to make their relationship work. Because at least they are still communicating. However, if both parties have “checked out” of a relationship, this can be a very difficult situation to mend. If at least one of you is willing and invested in making it work, then it’s more likely you’ll be able to get through the rough patches to better days.

Being invested can mean repairing a relationship for the sake of the children. Perhaps you run a business together, or have built a life together that includes a wide circle of friends and family. Some people simply believe in marriage and the stability it brings to their lives. While others know deep down, after having experienced years of loneliness, that being coupled-up is better for their physical and mental wellbeing. You’ve got to see your effort as being worthwhile in some way to make a relationship truly go the distance.

Mapping out your particular relational dynamics

By using Schema Therapy, we’re able to map out a couple’s relational dynamics and the cycles that form over time. We can predict how couples are likely to behave and very often, we’re able to work out how new relationships will develop in the future.

Part of the mapping process can include looking into the patterns that have evolved through the family of origin of each person. Typically we’d work with a couple over 3-4 sessions to devise their map, with both people together and as individuals. We’ll be able to indicate areas of vulnerability and potential conflict, and from there, we’ll take you through new ways to better handle those areas.

Some tips to keep your connection strong

Recognising that you can’t change anyone is a big part of enjoying smooth relationships. A good relationship requires us to be good at listening and understanding where the other person is coming from. No matter how much we have in common with our partner, we’ve still come from different families – which means there is sure to be variance within our core beliefs and values.

Reducing criticism is absolutely key to maintaining a good relationship. As Harriet Lerner notes, “your partner won’t make use of your constructive criticism if there’s not a surrounding climate of admiration and respect.” And finally, it’s most important to remember that little things often mean the most. For example, when was the last time you made your partner laugh? Bringing humour into a relationship that’s become a bit frosty, is a great way to warm both of your hearts back to love.

We’ve helped countless couples heal their relationships and experience a renewed state of togetherness. If you would like to discuss how we can help, then please do contact us for a confidential chat.

Dr Elena Touroni

Dr Elena Touroni

16 January 2019

"Dr. Elena Touroni is a skilled and experienced Consultant Psychologist with a track record of delivering high-quality services for individuals with all common emotional difficulties and those with a diagnosis of personality disorder. She is experienced in service design and delivery, the management of multi-disciplinary teams, organisational consultancy, and development and delivery of both national and bespoke training to providers in the statutory and non-statutory sector."

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Dr Stacie Tay

Dr Stacie Tay attained her BSc (Hons) Psychology at the University of Nottingham and worked as a psychologist at the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore, before returning to the UK to complete her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University College London.   

Dr Tay has worked in a variety of settings within the NHS for more than eight years, including primary and secondary care, specialist psychological services and forensic inpatient settings. She currently works as a Clinical Psychologist at the North East London Foundation Trust.  

She has extensive experience working with individuals and groups, providing evidence-based psychological therapies including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) and Mindfulness-based approaches as well as Schema-informed therapy.   

Dr Tay’s clinical experience involves working with people who present with a range of mild to severe mental health difficulties. This includes depression, anxiety (OCD, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, health anxiety, phobia-related disorders, PTSD), stress related issues, low self-esteem, complex trauma, interpersonal difficulties, grief and bereavement, and long-term health conditions.