For many of us who are having problems in our relationship, a google search is our first option. If you type ‘relationship’ into the search bar of Google, the suggested text includes: my relationship sucks, is over, is falling apart, is boring...you get the message.
Unfortunately for us, while Google might be able to offer some help for relationships, it can be hard to sift through the unhelpful advice to find the nuggets of valuable, legitimate information that will actually help to make our relationships happier.
For the moment, though, let’s take a step back for a moment and consider the kinds of things that might lead us to seek out help for our relationship. Relationship counsellors find that there are several key reasons that people describe being unhappy or stressed in a relationship - these include:
If you are finding yourself having regular arguments and conflicts with your partner, it is likely that this is taking the shine off the relationship. For many couples, arguments can feel like groundhog day - the same issues come up again and again, and because things get heated quickly, they never actually get resolved - and pop up again the next time that situation arises. This can happen because one or both partners struggle with communication and being able to express themselves calmly (or feel confident that they will be heard) - or it might be because there is a clash of values or lifestyle choices that is hard to negotiate. The good news is that, as common as this issue is, it is also reasonably straightforward to solve - and there are some great resources out there that can help.
There’s a right and wrong way to argue with your partner. A Relish relationship coach can help break the argument cycle and find the root of the issue. Try free for 7-days.
Some couples will tell you that they wish they were still arguing - and that the big problem they experience is disconnection, which can be even more distressing than fighting. This is a tricky one, since it is a sign that either both people are somewhat switched off in a relationship and the intimacy and closeness has died - or it might just be a personality attribute, where one partner prefers to keep to themselves and not necessarily make time to connect or share experiences. Some really happy relationships might find the couple living separate lives and only sharing certain parts of their lives - and that is fine if it works for both people. More often, we find that disconnection is the result of longstanding communication issues and lack of resolution with conflict - meaning both people are holding resentment and disappointment about their partner and the relationship. Resentment tends to bury all the good feelings we might have about our partner, and we feel less willing to get close to them or connect. Just like with arguing, disconnection is solvable - but it can be a long road back to getting close and building up a willingness to move towards, rather than away, from a partner.
One of the most common issues that people seek help for is trust. Again, this can be because there has been a breach of trust from one or both partners, or it might be because someone is still struggling with baggage from their previous relationship and are being triggered by simply being in a relationship. Trust is something that lies at the heart of all relationships, since by getting close to someone we are making ourselves vulnerable. Fortunately, since this is a common and understandable issue, there are good resources available to help process painful or difficult emotions around trust, as well as rebuild it in a relationship that has been damaged.
Rebuilding trust takes time and serious effort. Luckily, our relationship coaches are here to guide you. Download the #1 relationship training app today and get started for free.
Finally, sex is also an issue that comes up in a lot of relationships. We know that in any relationship there can be an ebb and flow with intimacy - and sometimes factors such as stress, body image, mental health, trauma and grief can mean that a couple is out of sync sexually. Again, if both members of a couple are happy with their level of intimacy, there is no issue - but often one partner is dissatisfied with the amount or frequency of sex, and this creates tension and issues within the relationship. This is understandable - we all want to feel loved and wanted, as well as respected and listened to - and sex can tick a lot of boxes. Recent research has been useful in helping us understand sex a bit more (for example, that some people shut down sexually when stressed, while others are not impacted at all) - and there are a lot of resources to help couples identify and learn how to get on the same page sexually.
So, How Do I Find Relationship Help?
For the moment, let's leave behind the Google search-bar and talk about some widely used resources that come highly recommended by relationship counsellors. Now is a great time to be looking for relationship help, since you can access a number of resources online or via apps - as well as meeting in the more traditional face to face settings.
Where Should We Begin? With Esther Perel
This is a great resource from one of the greatest relationship counsellors out there, Esther Perel - in each episode she works with a different couple to resolve issues like infidelity, disconnection, parenting and grief. It is an incredible experience to listen in on a couples therapy session, and one that can give some great ‘aha’ moments about your own situation. Highly recommended!
Small Things Often - The Gottman Institute
The Gottman Institute is one of the most respected relationship resources, with great research and programs that get to the heart of what makes a relationship work. This podcast provides simple, quick tips to help deepen and enhance relationships.
Unlocking Us - With Brene Brown
Brene Brown has spent over 20 year studying emotions and experiences that bring meaning and purpose into our lives - this podcast is about connection and sometimes having challenging conversations - it is a good resource for building up skills in insight and empathy in a relationship.
Fortunately for us, there are plenty of well-written, engaging books about relationships - from attachment, sex and communication, to open relationships and blended families. Here are a few of our favourites:
Come As You Are - by Emily Nagowski
This book is a great resource if you’re struggling somewhat with sex the author is a sex educator and has a very clear way of explaining differences in libido and arousal, and how this often plays out in relationships. It is a good resource for both people in a relationship as well, since the explanations about why a person might not be interested in sex (eg. stress, anxiety, body image) make a lot of sense, and can help their partner develop empathy and understanding, rather than feeling rejected.
What Makes Love Last? By John Gottman, MD
We like the Gottmans so much that we are also recommending their books - there are several books about sex, relationships, marriage and parenting that have great advice that is based on years of reserach and clinical experience. This book is about keeping up the bond and closeness that couples experience when they first get together - and that often fades as time goes on.
Attached - By Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
This is a great resource for people wanting to know more about attachment theory, a useful tool for understanding why relationships can be challenging for some people, and why we might be drawn to certain types of relationships. It describes the different types of attachment styles and how these play out in our day to day lives. For many people, just being aware of their attachment style is enough to start to make changes that they need in their relationships - whether this is learning how to ask for personal space, or finding ways of feeling reassured and secure in a relationship.
*note - most of these books are available for free download or loan on audiobook or ebook if you have a library subscription - reach out to your local library.
Therapy & Apps
Now is a great time to seek help online and via technology - we have progressed to a stage where getting help online is safe, cost-effective and often just as high quality as face to face therapy. If you’re not sure about committing to therapy, which can sometimes be a significant financial outlay, there are a range of apps available that offer relationship coaching and skills building as a good first step.
Seeking therapy online has never been easier, and several websites offer access to licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists (PhD / PsyD), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), and board licensed professional counselors (LPC). You can choose your therapist based on their area of expertise, and can connect with an experienced relationship therapist. One useful thing to remember is that a good connection with your therapist is really important for the outcome of therapy - sometimes it is not a good fit, and it might be necessary to change therapists before you find the right one.
Talkspace is another service that offers online therapy, allowing you to communicate with your therapist via text or video calls. You can send your therapist text, audio, picture, and video messages at any time, and they respond daily. One benefit of this site is that you are able to change therapists quickly if needed, and can choose one that is the best fit for you. There are often promotions that you can take part in that give you a discount for your first week with Talkspace, which will give you a chance to see what they have to offer.
Relish is a Relationship Training app, offering Coaching and a large library of lessons about communication, intimacy, conflict, attachment and boundary setting. It is part of a new type of relationship therapy which provides information and guidance about how to manage major issues, and offers Coach support and guidance if needed. One of the major benefits of relationship training apps such as Relish is that they are relatively low cost compared to regular therapy - and can be a great place to start for people who are interested in addressing issues in their relationship, but are not quite sure about starting therapy. You can sign up for a free trial of Relish for one week before subscribing, which gives you a chance to try out Coaching and the content and see if it is for you.
What Do I Do Now?
We know - with all these resources, it can be hard to know exactly where to start. If you’re seriously thinking about getting some help, it is a good idea to sit down (either alone, or with your partner) and make a list of the biggest issues you’re having right now in the relationship - and some of the goals you have for your future. Often facing the issues is a powerful first step, and it can also give you an idea of the direction you want to go in.
Remember - most issues people have in relationships are shared by many other couples - so there is help out there! It just depends on how much time you have, your resources, the type of support you want, and the stage your relationship is in. Talking to a professional and educating yourself on key relationship principles can make a huge difference to your relationship and quality of life - and we wish you all the best!
Recognizing that your relationship needs help is the hard first step in repairing your relationship. Take the next step and get started with Relish - the #1 relationship coaching app. Start your free 7-day trial.