Resolve Partnership Conflicts © Martyn Carruthers

Real partners have real conflicts. People in romantic affairs or couples who are emotionally separated may have few conflicts. We help people recognize, survive and manage their conflicts – to restore marriages – to start new relationships – or to live independently.


We help couples rebuild their relationships for lasting happiness, and sometimes we help couples separate peacefully. For most people, the end of a partnership is as stressful as a death in the family, and a mature decision to separate comprises less than 20% of divorces. (See Jordan (1985) Effects of marital separation” Brisbane, Family Court of Australia.)

Perhaps we are playing a game –
a game called We are not playing a game.
If we talk about the rules our game
we break the rules of our game
(the game called We are not playing a game)
and we punish each other
Adapted from Knots by R.D. Laing

The breakup of a committed partnership can be a life crisis. Most separating partners follow predictable steps as they try to cope with the stress of their relationship breakdown. (See Divorce Coaching.)

Are your Relationships Healthy or in Crisis?

I composed this chart a few years ago for quickly checking partnership health. This chart helps me assess the health of other relationships.

Healthy Partnership Partnership in Crisis
Partners show appreciation and
gratitude to each other
One or both are often dissociated,
irritated, depressed or critical
Partners respond to most verbal
and nonverbal communications
One or both ignore, avoid or
shorten most communications
Partners review events in their history They rarely review their history together
Partners greet after time apart and ask about each other’s activities and other news They rarely interact together,
without even silent intimacy
Partners enjoy meeting each other’s needs for passion, intimacy and commitment One or both often ignore or
criticize the other’s goals and needs
Partners discuss goals and dreams, finding shared values and creating shared meanings. They rarely discuss goals,
values or dreams
Partners share meals and housework together One person often eats or cleans alone
Partners often go out together They generally prefer to go out alone
Partners create projects which
require committed cooperation
One or both often avoid, ignore or
give token attention to shared projects
They wish to stay together to enjoy sharing partnership happiness One or both want to separate but do not because of guilt, fear or constraints
They respect most of each other’s choices and decisions, and politely discuss differences One or both show contempt for the other’s decisions and angrily demand changes
Partners want happiness together One or both prefer happiness alone

Children often carry the burden of their parent’s projections, while adults adopt the projections of their partners and colleagues. How much of your behavior is a response to other people’s actions? Long-term partners need not be dependent.

Over half of first marriages end in divorce, and even more second marriages or subsequent partnerships end in separation. Physical health suffers – people in intimate couples live about four years longer than singles. Ignoring partnership problems is unhealthy and expensive.

Unrealistic expectations are a root cause of failed partnerships and play out in all
aspects of a relationship. ‘I’m not good enough‘ and ‘You are not good enough’
undermine happiness in partnership and in life generally.
Marina Budimir

Where are healthy role models for healthy partnership? So many people commence partnership with ideas based on their parents’ behavior, television shows, sports and media stars, often using popular music lyrics as toxic affirmations. Few people seem to consider what beliefs and skills are needed for mature partnership.

Psychologist Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad found that partnerships characterized by ambivalence (inability to decide) can lead to high blood pressure. Some people die of broken hearts.

I see few role models for peaceful separation. Many people find themselves repeating the drama of their parents, relatives or movie characters. The role models and advice that many people use to guide separation and divorce are often toxic. Many separating partners seem to work hard to ensure that they and their partners both feel bad!

People who recreate their childhood disappointments in their adult relationships
may have associated love with unhealthy parental behavior.

Kosjenka Muk

Real partners have real partnership problems – people in affairs and people who stay together for economic, religious or social reasons often avoid resolving partnership conflicts.

Unskilled mentors can damage relationships. Many well-intentioned people not only lack maturity themselves, they are unaware that mature partnership skills exist. They perceive happy couples as lucky and unhappy couples as unlucky.

Here are some useful steps:

Most partnership problems begin before a partnership. Unresolved issues from childhood or from previous partnerships become a large part of the emotional baggage that people take into their relationships.

Typical Emotional Baggage


Some problems begin early in a partnership. Threats (“If you leave me I’ll …“)cmay be one of the most toxic, perhaps followed by betrayal of previous partners, extravagant purchases and by living together too quickly.

We educate people about crisis and separation, and seek solutions
that benefit both partners, their children and future partners.
Some couples, after resolving their emotions and beliefs,
request our help to start a new partnership … with each other.

If you Separate … How can you BOTH Benefit?

Partnerships reflect the intentions of the partners when they begin a relationship.
If a partnership was built on need, guilt, anger or fear, or if it began with weak
or dependent people seeking support … perhaps a crisis has already started.
Contact us to better deal with these issues.

After separation, mature adults often choose a relationship-free period; dependent and codependent people quickly jump into affairs; while immature individuals may obsess about revenge and punishment.

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