The Addictions Academy: Why Relationships Matter. Guest Blog by Jennifer Sneeden, LMFT


Why Relationships Matter

Did you know that just one big fight with your partner can lower your immunity? (Source: Harvard Health) Imagine what it does to your physical and mental health to be stuck in a difficult relationship, in a cycle of hostility, loneliness, anger, and sometimes violence. This places incredible stress on you, creating problems ranging from weight gain to depression.

This is the situation that many of your clients are faced with. They struggle with difficult relationships and don’t know how to change things. They may be working on every area of their lives, but until their relationships improve, they can’t really break through to the level of success they desire in their lives.

Many people believe that the only way out is to end the relationship. But the problem with this is that their pattern will just repeat itself in the next relationship. What relationship coaching clients need are options. They need help making decisions about whether to stay or go, and they need guidance to change these destructive patterns once and for all.

About five years ago, I worked with a client named “Mike”.  Mike was a handsome and successful man who had a history of being taken advantage in relationships. He was referred to me when he started having panic attacks and high blood pressure. Whenever he had a disagreement with his girlfriend, he would have a panic attack. He had begun to avoid her as a way of avoiding another panic attack.

Mike had never learned to stand up for himself with women. He was so afraid of being a “jerk” that he never complained, never objected, and never asked for what he wanted. He began to feel taken advantage in his relationship. We were able to identify the same pattern in each of his significant relationships.

As Mike and I worked together, he realized that he was automatically taking the role he saw his father take growing up. He saw his father as weak, and had tried hard not to emulate him. Mike had to work hard to begin speaking his mind. This was a scary and difficult process for him at first, because he thought his girlfriend would leave him if he complained.

Over time, Mike began to see that when he was open and honest about his feelings, he actually grew closer to his girlfriend. Their relationship improved, and his panic attacks went away.

Mike’s story contains several important points for any therapist, counselor, or coach working with relationships and couples.

First, he was at the center of his relationship problems. Many times, our clients want to blame their partner for the problems, rather than taking responsibility themselves. However, listening to a client complain is NOT the same thing as helping them. One of the essential first steps in relationship coaching is guiding the client to accept responsibility.

Second, many “issues” in relationships really come down to communication. Often people simply can’t see the problems in their communication, and don’t realize that they are inadvertently pushing their partners away or inciting an argument. They need an outside expert to guide them toward more effective communication patterns.

Third, clients are often using their current relationship to work through childhood issues without even realizing it. Children should be deeply connected and bonded with their parents; this sets the foundation for a healthy life. However, some children did not get these attachment needs met in childhood. When this happens, they often unconsciously seek this in an unhealthy way from their partners as adults. Relationship coaching can identify these patterns and help the client to change them.

Fourth, many people tolerate bad relationships because they have a deep fear of losing love. They need a safe and supportive place to address this. They will often seek out a relationship coach when they are worried the relationship is over, or it has reached an unbearable point. These clients need a trusted advisor to help them move through this fear.

Because relationships are so central to who we are as humans, relationship coaching is essential to true healing work for clients. By giving clients freedom from destructive relationship patterns, the skills necessary to form healthy relationships, and the supportive environment to heal, we give them the freedom to develop deep and meaningful relationships.


Bestselling Author and Practice-Building Coach
Founder, Thriving Therapy Practice