Relationship Issues

Relationships.  We all have them. Sometimes we want more of them, sometimes we want less of them.

Sometimes it’s a quality issue.  Why do we get stuck in the same patterns with others over and over?

Counselling can help to find answers to dilemmas like these.

Many clients who meet with me in my downtown Vancouver counselling and therapy office are seeking help for relationship issues.

Types of relationships

  • Couples / intimate partners
  • Adult children and their parents
  • Parents and their children
  • Divorced / separated partners
  • Siblings
  • Friends
  • Inlaws
  • Blended family relationships
  • Grandparents and grandchildren
  • Co-workers
  • Neighbours
  • Caregivers
  • Relationships from the past where the “other” has passed away, yet ‘baggage’ remains

The issues

While not an exhaustive list, some common relationship problems include:

Couples issues

  • Financial disagreements
  • Interpersonal conflict / anger management
  • To stay or leave?
  • Communication problems
  • Differences in emotional styles
  • Sex (quality and quantity)
  • Divergent life goals / dreams
  • Gridlock over core life issues
  • The balance between independence and interdependence
  • Past traumas / hurts affecting the current relationship
  • Affairs
  • Parenting disagreements
  • How work and leisure time should be divided and spent
  • Dreams / shared vision for the future as a couple
  • Co-dependency

Parents and children

  • Parenting concerns
  • Discipline
  • Interpersonal conflict / anger management
  • Co-parenting
  • Ages and stages issues, worries, planning
  • Leaving home, empty nest

Adult children and parents

  • Dealing with past hurts
  • Aging parents: caregiving stress / burnout; “care home” vs. “at home”
  • Those in the “sandwich generation”: caring for children + aging parents
  • When adult children have a disability: planning for their future
  • Codependency

Divorced / Separated partners

  • Grief and loss when a relationship ends
  • The divorce / separation process
  • When troubled relationships end
  • Readjusting to single life
  • Co-parenting
  • Single parenting
  • Dating again


  • Workplace bullying
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Communicating needs / expectations
  • Employee management


  • Making and maintaining friendships
  • Making social conversation
  • Drifting apart
  • Negative friendship patterns
  • Giving and receiving support

Other family

  • Hurts from childhood
  • Getting along / anger management
  • Separation / cut-offs
  • Family trauma

Because humans are by nature social beings, we can’t escape relationships! If a relationship problem is affecting your ability to cope, counselling may be a first step that’s right for you. Please call or email me if you have questions or would like to book an appointment.

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Recommended Books

Co-Dependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring For Yourself by Melody Beattie (1986)

A classic in the field; introduced the concept of co-depenency and how to break free of it.

Rekindling Desire by Barry and Emily McCarthy (2014).

Information and help for restoring sexual intimacy in low and no-sex relationships. The book’s case studies feature primarily opposite-sex relationships.

Cutting Loose: An Adult’s Guide to Coming to Terms With Your Parents by Howard M. Halpern (1990).

This book demystifies dysfunctional relationships between adult children and their parents and offers insights about how to start relating to parents in a functional way.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman and Nan Silver (2000)

Professor of psychology, John Gottman, shares the principles for successful marriage, culled from his years of longitudinal research on couples.

The Assertiveness Workbook by Randy Patterson (2000)

Practical workbook for understanding and improving assertiveness.

Honey, I Wrecked the Kids by Alyson Shafer (2009)

How to understand your children’s misbehaviour and elicit their cooperation.

Breaking the Good Mom Myth: Every Mom’s Modern Guide to Getting Past Perfection, Regaining Sanity and Raising Great Kids by Alyson Shafer (2006)

Not for the faint at heart, the author asks us to look at our expectations of ourselves as mothers and to take responsibility for them.  She offers alternative strategies for making changes, intermingled with humourous dialogue.


Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (1990)

The authors bring to life the work of the late child psychologist, Dr. Haim Ginott, using examples from their own family lives.


Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott (1965) – revised by Alice Ginott and H. Wallace Goddard (2003)

This parenting classic and pioneering work emphasizes a humanistic approach to parenting, rooted in empathy and respect.  Also offers practical tips complete with many examples.


The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children and Struggling With Depression by Tracy Thompson (2006)

The author interweaves her personal experiences, the voices of the women she interviewed and recent research to paint a portrait of maternal depression.

Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh (2002)

A gentle book offering guidance on how to use the spiritual practice of mindfulness to help with anger.


Reduced-Cost Counselling [PDF]

A resource list of lower-cost professional counselling options in Vancouver. Corrections and suggestions welcome.

Alyson Shafer

Straightforward parenting advice from an Adlerian perspective

Information Children, Simon Fraser University

Parenting helpline. Also offers workshops and resource/referral.

Parent Support Services Society of BC

Parenting support circles, classes, community workshops

Family Services of Greater Vancouver

Offers a variety of parenting workshops as well as many other services, including counselling.

BC Council for Families

Parenting programs/groups offered by trained facilitators. Resources.