The most common issues that will ruin your relationship

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  • According to a couples therapist

    Relationships can be a source of happiness, and a source of woe when they go wrong. And every one has their share of ups and downs, and believe us, no one has seen it more than a couples counsellor. We already know the three things you should never say to your partner but we caught up with relationship therapist Clare Ireland to talk what does go wrong at one point or another in your average relationship…

    Understanding differences

    ‘People often form a relationship because of the difference in the other, which seems to offer a repair for early family issues which have gone wrong in some way for one the partners. The bigger the issue in childhood, the draw of difference in someone else can be seriously attractive in the early seduction. Paradoxically, this difference often becomes a problem at a later time when couples feel stuck over it and feel there is no solution. This can be triggered by child rearing, holiday styles, intrusion of families, social mixing and frequency, interests and types of friends and drinking or drug habits. Different childhoods or cultural differences can seem attractive and alluring at first but can become magnified over issues of child raising, home chores, money etc. when you don’t have the same view on domestic life.’

    Voicing your needs

    ‘Unspoken wishful thinking encourages people to place a lot of expectation into their partner, but without voicing it to the other person, and just longing for it on the side.  The other person in the couple is probably doing the same thing, yet neither know what is expected of them. When this unconscious expectation is planted without any words, each can become disappointed and resentful when their partner doesn’t seem to be coming up with the goods. The disappointment and sense of unfairness can then manifest itself in anger and that level of anger is much higher than the cause – and the link between them is severed.  And, without any real words or explanation, hurt and rejection will be felt.’

    Understanding sexual boundaries

    ‘What is acceptable sexually to each other?  If one is not in agreement with the other’s preference, how can you work together to resolve this? Resolution often involves each person trying to work out a third way between them that becomes a creatively contained place accepted by both.  If each have to modify their needs and make sacrifices both sexually and in everyday life, the third way can feel very intimate and private to them. But, guessing and hoping will never work because it will cause a rift; communication is key between two intimate adult partners.’

    Express your needs

    ‘Sometimes it helps for each person to write down five things they feel they need in order to be a fully functioning half of a couple.  They can then show that to each other and if one or two points seem impossible for either to offer, they then negotiate and mediate towards a shared compromise, which may not be what the original hope was, but may be better because of the sharing of honest thoughts.’

    Keep family out of arguments

    ‘It’s important to keep families of origin from becoming the judge and jury in a couple dispute. The parent and grandparent generation have to also work with themselves to help with the letting go and to respect their adult children’s different management styles which each generation chooses for their couples and family.’

    Accept your partner who who they are

    ‘When entering a partnership or marriage, you assume that you’ve ‘fallen in love’ with the person of your dreams; someone who is different and who they love because they are. However, after time, you can try to become the other one’s therapist, getting into their head and pointing out why they are like they are and then trying to change them to become more like you.’

    You need to feel equal

    ‘The see-saw of couple life has to be felt to be equal most of the time.  What one does for the other in times of need has to be equalised quite soon to feel balanced. So if one is the parent and the other the child in the relationship a lot of the time, this will become another unspoken resentment in the relationship.’

    Clare Ireland is a therapist at

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