There are three basic types of relationship problems: past, present, and future. While analysis can be applied to each type, the procedure is slightly different for each.
With past problems, one of the most helpful methods is to look for recurring patterns, and then try to analyze what those patterns have in common. For example, suppose you have had several relationships that ended because of drug or alcohol abuse. Were there warning signs that you ignored? Were you looking for someone to “rescue”? Did you enjoy “living on the edge” until things went beyond the tipping point?
Avoid thinking in terms of “blame” and focus on “responsibility”. Very few relationships end because one party is 100% wrong. And very few end because each party is 50% responsible. It may be helpful to analyze the relationship in stages:
“At first it was exciting to be with the life of the party.”
“It was scary when we drove home drunk.”
“I got angry when she lost her job and I had to start paying all the bills.”
“It was impossible when the fighting started and we got evicted.”
As you analyze where your choices went wrong, develop a set of basic guidelines. For example, if one of your patterns is the penniless partner who quits working and lets you pay all the bills, you may resolve not to get involved with someone unless they have a home, a car, and a job.
Some of the most difficult problems are the present problems. For them, an ABCD analysis may be helpful. A is the Action that triggers the problem; B is the Belief (usually wrong) that amplifies the problem; C is the Consequence of that belief, and D is the Different response that can de-fuse the problem. For example, you feel insecure in the relationship, and your partner does something suspicious, like coming home late. (That’s the Action.) Your wrong Belief (that you aren’t good enough and your partner is probably seeing someone else) leads you to accuse her of cheating (the Consequence).
What Different responses might get a better result than hysterical accusations? Expressing loving concern? (I was getting worried. Is everything all right?) Not saying anything? (And not slamming doors, punching pillow, or kicking the cat!)
Sometimes the most effective analysis of present problems is to ask yourself “what am I like to live with?” Before initiating a confrontation, ask yourself, “Is this really worth arguing about?”
Finally, the best way to prevent future problems is to recognize that you aren’t perfect, accept the partner who loves you anyway, and love her in spite of her imperfections.