Being part of a couple can be a deeply rewarding experience, but intimate partnerships can also become fraught with difficulties. When concerns arise, people are sometimes unsure how valid they are and whether other couples face similar problems. I have therefore compiled a list of frequently presented couple concerns seen in my practice. I believe it is often helpful to address these early on, as research indicates that couples can wait 6 years on average before they seek help.
Some of the difficulties that couples report at Kensington Counselling are:
My partner is unavailable
I see them as being physically absent a lot of the time, for instance spending more time at work, with friends, with their hobbies, or with their own family of origin. I feel that they are not pulling their weight with house chores, or childcare. My partner is emotionally absent, not showing enough affection, not initiating sex, seeming uninterested in my problems, or unwilling to offer support. Sometimes my partner is unable to really “get me”. I am left feeling like second best, like something else is always a priority. Ultimately I feel unwanted and, therefore, unimportant, and lonely.
My partner is very demanding of me
No matter how much I do it doesn’t seem enough for them. I try to change, but I feel like everything I do is wrong. I can’t seem to get it right for them. I am afraid I am losing myself in this relationship. I feel that being part of the couple threatens my autonomy and sense of identity. I feel like I am being controlled to act and even think in ways that feel alien to me. I sometimes feel claustrophobic. I feel impotent.
My partner is very critical of me
They seem to find fault with whatever I do, and they seem to have a very rigid idea of how I should behave. This can sometimes extend to how I should think or feel. I feel this is more like a parent-child relationship. I find that I too become critical and arguments escalate uncontrollably.
I feel it is just me when it comes to the world outside the relationship
As a couple we struggle to relate to third parties. I often feel like I need to carry the whole weight myself. My partner will not help with looking after our new baby or children. I can feel exhausted. We have had couples therapy in the past and I felt like I was the one keeping the therapy going.
I do not feel in love any more
I love my partner but I do not feel excited by them. My relationship feels very practical. They are more like family than a lover. I find other people more exciting and I am tempted to pursue them, or I already am. I can often feel very guilty for feeling this way.
I am terrified my partner will leave me
I seem to live under constant threat of abandonment. I am worried they are having an affair. I check for signs that they are not interested in me all the time. I check if they are looking at other people when we are out. I have started to check their phone, or online activities. It seems that my behaviour is driving them away and this scares me even more. I am caught in a vicious circle.
My partner is abusive
My partner can be verbally, or even physically abusive. They shout or swear at me. I feel terrified of them. I feel forced to have sex or consent to do things I do not really feel comfortable with. They are psychologically abusive. I feel sure that this is not right at all, but they seem to convince me I am not thinking straight. I feel like I cannot trust my sense of reality and I am worried I am losing my mind. I sometimes tell them how I feel, but they seem to be able to charm me to thinking everything is OK. Even worse I really want everything to be OK.
(Please note that if you are concerned about your physical safety, couple therapy is unlikely to be the right thing at this time. Please see NHS Choices for your options).
If any of the above apply to you and you feel that it may be useful to think about all of this with someone you can [contact]me to discuss arranging a consultation for you and your partner, or just you initially. My West London Couples therapy practice is 2 minutes from High Street Kensington and within easy reach from from Notting Hill, Holland Park, Earl's Court, Fulham, Hammersmith, Gloucester Road.