Finding a new customer is 10 times as expensive as keeping an old one. The end of a close relationship may take years to recover from. A new one, years to establish. So here are some suggestions for resolving differences and enjoying life together. And maybe a few ideas for choosing the right person in the first place. Or perhaps more importantly - becoming the right person.

Each partner brings their dowry of assets, liabilities, capacities and limitations including fitness, addictions, pretences and intellect to the relationship. Each brings a lifetime of accumulated hopes and fears - real and fantastic.

Excitement and bright ideas may keep a relationship together during the hormone rush which keeps partners in a compassionate frame of mind for the first few months. After that a reasonable similarity or compatibility is essential in a few main areas.


values and cultural background - like political and religious ideas


attitude to money and to possessions



hobbies and interests

The differences can be interesting and expansive for both. They usually require working on. Accommodating to each other. Give and take. Getting used to the differences. Balancing outside interests with common interests.

Changes can stress a relationship. As each partner changes so joint activities and ways of communicating have to change to maintain the relationship.

A difficult relationship may be stifling or it may be a growth experience as we travel out of our comfort zone into new worlds. A harmonious relationship may combine all the partners' talents and powers enabling them to do more than a they could have alone. Or it may multiply them and take them even further.

In practice partners liberate each other in some ways and trip each other up in others. The relationship works when there are some net gains and a practical everyday life together is possible.

The more flexibility and the less rules the greater the relationship.

We tend to be attracted to someone similar to an important person in our past or with similar or complementary emotional habits that fit the style of our upbringing or ways our parents interacted.

Unresolved trauma from childhood or a previous relationship can bring to a new relationship habits like placating or punishing that a partner may find difficult to understand or cope with.

A bond is the memories of pleasure in moments of being together. For example the sight or smell or movement or sound or feel of a partner that is exhilarating or comforting. Small interactions or memorable events.

Fond memories accumulate when partners want each other to feel good. When they like each other and are pleased with each other. If we feel good then our partner can as well and we anticipate that we are going to feel good when we are together next.

On the other hand feelings of dread at the thought of being together grow when partners resent each other and want the other to feel guilty or get relief when the other is upset. Unpleasant memories accumulate. If one partner feels fear then bonding is limited. It is not easy for someone who has been abused or abandoned to provide or experience pleasure.

The quality of a relationship is a balance sheet of pleasant against unpleasant memories. An account of the positive and negative feelings that each partner evokes in the other each time they meet and the well of old memories is tapped. The final balance lies somewhere between joyful anticipation and dread.

A love-hate relationship is both at once – distressing and binding.

Men and women have some different skills, interests and needs. Often an awareness of the differences helps understanding.

Men are generally breadwinners. In a conventional relationship men tend to want to please and be appreciated and women to loved and be loved. If things go wrong women tend to fear abandonment and men criticism. Women are more likely to walk out and men to be critical. Girls connect, boys compete.

Our feelings of love and the idea of our mutual bond exist in separate bodies. We don't share everything with our partners.

If we fully displayed every passing feeling and idea we might distress our partner and risk the relationship. We hide disappointments, anger and homicidal fantasies to spare them anxiety. And might hide affection if this increases our feelings of vulnerability.

Concealment maintains a relationship but opens the way to misunderstandings. We need to display enough negative feelings to be understood but not so much as to begin the accumulation of negative memories that lead to dread and separation.

Feelings of hatred and irritation as well as love and affection are inevitable in most relationships. And necessary to know how each other feels.

If a couple diminish each other by emotional and verbal attacks then their joint power shrinks. When they enhance each other they become more powerful.

A relationship and partners are injured by conflict. Especially when it leaks outside and others are recruited to take sides or communicate through.

Negative feelings gradually take over once a partner discovers pleasure or release of tension by expressing them. If this becomes a habit and fires up retaliation then bad memories eventually out-number good ones and goodwill is exhausted.

As a rule a relationship will be good if more than about two thirds of its exchanges are positive. But everyone is different. Some are threatened by the slightest hint of rejection (or whatever feelings worry them). Others are self-confident enough to tolerate lots of strong feelings. Some like vigorous heated argument. Some none.

Reducing fear reduces hostile interactions. Conflicts can be short circuited by setting aside and practicing unconditional love for particular days of the week, times of day or for a month or more at a time. Preferably both partners but one may be enough to get the ball rolling .

Do you know your partner or are you mistaking them for your fantasies, hopes and dreads about them? Someone may wear tyour projections easily while they are drug addicted or have low self esteem but find them intolerable when they grow out of that.

Couples internalise each other and carry the others ideas and voice within them. Close partners tend to know themselves and each other. Most couples have some misconceptions about each other and may not not know exactly what each other want. The resolving conflict pages suggest ways to talk through differences and find agreement. And get to know each other.

A counsellor can provide a safe space to take it in turns to exchange feelings and needs that have not been possible to explore at home. The awareness therapy pages suggest ways to approach this.

This website has simple ideas and exercises to expand awareness, health and vitality which help relationships.