Being in a relationship which doesn’t feel as if it is working can be a stressful experience and usually doesn’t help your self esteem. If you are not careful you can end up spending most of your time, worrying about:

* What you should do
* Whose fault is it
* What if I get the decision wrong?

These thoughts can be paralysing and given images in the media, in film, in novels and in music of what romance supposedly should be like, if a relationship doesn’t conform to those ideals in some aspect then people often agonise about whether to stay in it. At the same time you may feel guilty about the thoughts you are having or the inability to make a decision.

Most relationship books will advise you that there are certain relationship skills and qualities which you can concentrate on trying to build if things are difficult, including:

- Listening to your partner: giving your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend the opportunity to talk about their own feelings and encouraging them by open questions, (An open question is one which does not prejudge what your partner’s answer will be or encourage them to give a yes or no response. Examples of open questions would be a question such as ‘What do you think of….?’ or ‘How would you like to spend tomorrow? ).

- Talking honestly to your partner about your feelings – as far as possible doing so in a non-confrontational way where you compliment them on good things as well as seeking to communicate to them your personal preferences and priorities, and areas where you would appreciate a different response from them or a new opportunity for yourself.

- Trying to spend a little bit of quality time each week with your partner.

This is good advice for most relationships, but it won’t necessarily help you if you feel that you have got to make a decision. So what can you do to help yourself move towards making a decision about a relationship? The following is one option which can help you to work on improving your life and your self esteem at the same time as reflecting on the relationship:

1. Assess your satisfaction with the relationship now, say out of 10. Then ask yourself how much you would reasonably want that score to be in order for you to stay in the relationship permanently.

There is no right or wrong score for what you require here. It will depend on you as an individual, on your priorities and values and on the implications of a break up in the relationship – for example, if you have young children in the family you may be prepared to settle for a lower score because of worrying about the effect on them of a break-up. Equally, however, you might feel that if you are continually arguing with your partner, the effect of the arguments on your children may be worse than the effect of a break-up of the relationship.

2. Next ask yourself how the score you have given would compare with the score that you might have given say 6 months ago or 2 years ago. If it is significantly less now, then ask yourself what has changed and whether there is anything you can do or anything you could say to your partner that might improve it, to bring it closer to the score you identified in 1. as what you would like. If there is something you think you can do, then commit yourself to trying it – if necessary break it down into steps to make it easier.

3. The third step in the process is the paradoxical one of focusing on something other than the relationship – that something is the question:

What kind of person do I want to be?

Once you have decided what your vision of yourself is, the qualities that you would like to show towards others, the abilities that you would like to develop, what you want to be able to say you have achieved in your life you look back on it in the future, then ask yourself:

What can I do consciously to try to bring myself nearer to that vision of myself?

Now begin to carry out some small steps to help take you closer towards your vision. If appropriate, involve your partner in what you are seeking (and you can ask them what their vision is of how they would like to be).

Carrying out your conscious effort to become the person you want to be can help to raise the confidence you have in yourself. Secondly, as you begin to become the person you want to be, it can help you to decide what you and your partner need to change if the relationship is to work and if you are to achieve the level of satisfaction that you set for yourself in 1. above.

Author's Bio: 

David Bonham-Carter is a Life Coach specialising in helping people deal with stresses in relationships, work and other areas. This article represents just one suggestion as to what to do if you are in relationship difficulties. Appropriate options may vary according to individual circumstances. You can find details of David's own relationship coaching services at: Relationship Coaching.