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Bielay 06-10-2011 12:21 AM

3 Steps to Overcoming Relationship Problems
3 Steps to Overcoming Relationship Problems
By: George Bielay MSc., RMFT, RCC
Marriage and Family Therapist
Victoria Counselling

In my work as a relationship counsellor, many couples come to see me because their relationship is troubled and they hope to improve it. Having said so, I tend to inquire about what the couple has attempted to do to try to improve things and solve their outstanding problems.

Much of what I hear in response to my question is either they haven't done much of anything to solve the problem other than have the same types of arguments over and over, thus repeating what has not worked. Couple also state that they did not ,and do not, have any deliberate plan to address the problem in any fashion, and lastly, if they do have a plan, it is most often vague, unspecific and lacking direction.

Action Step 1: Acknowledge There is a Problem

Again, one of the things that I see in my couples counselling practice is one partner seeing relationship problems, and being able to speak of these problems, while the other partner doesn't see that there is any problem at all. This latter partner often dismisses the complaining partner as either being 'too sensitive' or 'making a big deal out of nothing'.

The rule of thumb in this regard is rather simple, that being, if one partner believes, percieves and feels there is a problem in the relationship, then there is a problem that needs to be addressed and attended to by both partners.

Action Step 2: Stop What isn't Working

All too often, couples will continue to bicker and argue about a relationship issue. This tends to create negative patterns which, if they are practiced too often, will become the 'default' pattern in the relationship, meaning, this will become your new (unhealthy) normal. So, when a problem discussion is not working, the most effective thing to do for the welfare of both partners and the relationship, is to stop. Picking at a scab repeatedly will not help the scab heal.

Hit the pause button for awhile, cool down and return when calmer heads prevail.

Action Step 3: Plan for Solutions and Work the Plan

It is vital that the problem have a focused plan of attack. Once you've both identified what isn't working, for example feeling overworked and as a result, distant from one another, the next step is to create a plan that gives solutions to the problem.

It is essential that you and your partner create a plan that is specific, concrete and realistic. Too vague is too loose and too big, may not be realistic.

Each person should think of specific, concrete, realistic and behavioral things they can do in efforts to improve the situation. To address the growing distance issue, you may write down something like; make time for a coffee together before starting the day, spend at least 5 minutes together at the end of the day to briefly go over each others day and events, do one fun thing together on the weekend etc. Please note, that in developing your ideas, focus only on what you can do, not what your partner can do.

Lastly, give the plan time to produce some results. Be patient and return to your plan weekly, with your partner and discuss how well it is working and if any revisions are required.

This exercise will put you and your partner back in the drivers seat of your relationship, and now you can start positively influencing it. Good Luck!


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