During our professional lives as emotional resilience coaches here at My Internal World, we often talk to people who are experiencing some sort of relationship breakdown, whether that's in the workplace - a tricky team, for example, or boss, or staff member - or, what's generally much worse, at home, with a life partner.
What can be very striking is that when people allow themselves to be emotionally vulnerable as they talk to a professional person being paid to help, they will often question themselves in a way they won't when dealing with the person being talked about.
Am I too demanding?
This is a question often asked. When people are experiencing a tricky relationship, it's a very human response - and a good one - to question what we ourselves are bringing to the table, and whether the problems experienced may be partly our fault.
So what, in our experience, does cause a relationship to break down? What should our expectations in relationships be? Is trust in a relationship the most important thing?
In the workplace
Complaints about troubled work relationships will nine times out of ten centre around poor communication. This can equally go upwards in an organisation (staff not communicating with their managers) as well as downwards (a boss having high expectations, the specifics of which are never clearly outlined).
What can be done to alleviate this?
Many people who are unhappy at work complain they feel "taken for granted". That their efforts, their overtime, their stress, whatever it might be, are not appreciated, or worse, not even recognised. So how can managers and bosses help change this? If you have a tricky team at work, or someone complaining about being taken for granted, consider first of all whether they may be justified. Sit down and talk to them - a neutral environment such as a coffee shop always works well - and listen carefully to what they say. Is their workload too much? Or are they perhaps not managing their time well? Hold regular meetings to give them a chance to air concerns. Say 'thank you' to them, often. It really does go a long way.
In the home
Problematic relationships at home are so sad and stressful for everyone concerned. At least at work, one expects to feel a certain degree of tension, but the issue at home is compounded by the fact that it is supposed to be a place of joy, relaxation and harmony.
So why do relationships suffer problems and what can we do about it? When are we being too demanding?
As with work, poor communication has a lot to answer for. Little things like Parent A making an arrangement to go out one evening and not informing Parent B who has also made an arrangement; who is going to sacrifice their night out and be there for the children? Talking to each other about plans would have headed off this problem before it happened. So, if you expect to be able to manage your own diary without informing your other half, then yes, you are being too demanding.
It's surprising how little breakdowns in communication such as the one outlined above can soon become bigger. Perhaps Partner A, stressed at work and at home, develops habits to try and combat their stress - an online gambling habit, for example - that rapidly leads to debts they can't talk about through guilt. It all stems from poor communication.
Soon, when this begins, the Partner B starts to feel ignored. And that all-important factor in any relationship, trust, starts to corrode. Things are now getting serious.
An intimate, loving relationship must always include a deep level of trust. Without trust in a relationship, you may as well not have the relationship at all. It is vital, a life-force.
When two people get married, they make vows to each other as they tie the knot. The traditional ones are really about love and respect, and you can of course come up with your own.
A promise is a very powerful thing. You might say that in the modern world, full of ever-changing technology, we might have become too advanced for a simple, human, promise. But, perhaps surprisingly, a promise remains as strong as ever. Think of breaching contracts, of having an affair, these are all broken promises, and they remain, ethically, one of the shabbiest ways in which a human being can behave.
Some of us in relationships prefer to get married, others see no point in the institution and get along perfectly well without. That's all fine. But whatever you choose to do, consider making some deeply felt, careful promises to each other before you set out on your relationship journey. When things get rough, think back to those promises that you made.
Try and stick to them.
If you don't talk to your other half, you are demanding too much of your relationship and not putting enough back in. Put down your phone and talk.
If you're struggling to stick to the promises you made, make yourself vulnerable and say this to your partner. No matter how far things have broken down, you will always be surprised at how important honesty continues to be. Admitting our mistakes takes real courage, and deep down, everyone knows this.
After all, to err is human, to forgive, divine.