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. As a therapist, I have a special interest in helping with complex relationship dynamics.

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
  • Emotional labour
  • Covid-related issues, including vaccine conflict

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
  • Emotional labour
  • Covid-related issues, including vaccination conflict

Divorced / Separated partners

  • Grief and loss when a relationship ends
  • The divorce / separation process
  • When troubled relationships end
  • Readjusting to single life
  • Co-parenting
  • Blended family issues
  • Single parenting
  • Dating again
  • Covid-related issues, including vaccination conflict


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


  • Making and maintaining friendships
  • Making social conversation
  • Drifting apart
  • Negative friendship patterns
  • Giving and receiving support
  • Covid-related conflict

Other family

  • Hurts from childhood
  • Getting along / anger management
  • Separation / cut-offs
  • Family trauma
  • Covid-related conflict and concerns

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

The book links on this page are Amazon Associate links; if you choose to make a purchase through them, I may earn a small commission which I use to fund my low-cost counselling resource lists. Your support is greatly appreciated.

More Than Words: The Science of Deepening Love and Connection In Any Relationship by John Howard (2022)

By leveraging the research on neuroscience, the author shows the reader simple, straightforward steps that they can take to improve the quality of connection in their close relationships. While focusing primarily on romantic partnerships, this book’s principles can be extended to any close relationships. Highly recommended.

It’s About You Too: Reducing the Overwhelm for Parents of LGBTQ+ Kids by Tracy Whitmore (2023)

The author stresses that when parents can honour their own thoughts, feelings and reactions to  their LGBTQ+ children’s gender and/or sexuality journeys, they are in the best position to wholeheartedly support their children. A practical, encouraging book. Recommended.

The Transgender Child: Revised & Updated Edition: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Nonbinary Children by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper (2022)

A thorough guide for families wanting to understand and affirm their transgender, gender-expansive, or nonbinary child, including transition-related information and guidance. The book also includes resources and a glossary of terms.

Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide To Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab (2021)

This book has emerged as a prominent and popular choice for those who wish to better understand emotional boundaries and co-dependency. Straightforward and practical.

Co-Dependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring For Yourself by Melody Beattie (2022)

A classic in the field; introduced the concept of co-dependency to the world and how to break free of it. I’ve stopped counting which edition it’s in.

Lifeskills for Adult Children by Alan Garner and Janet Woititz (1990)

This book has survived the test of time and was the first book ever recommended to me by my first therapist.  A slim volume chock-full of practical suggestions for adult children of alcoholics.

And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rebuilding Romance After the Baby Arrives by John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman (2007)

Tips from the authors’ research and experience navigating from a couple to a family of three. Information to help bridge and guide this important, and statistically challenging, life transition.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman and Nan Silver (2015).

Professor of psychology, John Gottman, shares the principles for a successful relationship, culled from his years of longitudinal research on couples. John Gottman’s most popular book and best for couples who are seeking a research-informed approach to making changes in their relationship.

The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships by Michael P. Nichols (2021))

Breaks down the practice of listening–something many of us put little thought into until we find ourselves struggling, or told that we are!

The Assertiveness Workbook by Randy Patterson (2022)

This book was first written when there was very little on the market to help with assertiveness skills. This practical workbook for understanding and improving assertiveness is now in its 2nd edition.

Mothers Who Think: Tales of Realife Parenthood by Camille Peri and Kate Moses, Eds. (2000)

Anthology of stories about motherhood. Pieces range from tender to provocative.


Honey, I Wrecked the Kids by Alyson Shafer (2014)

How to understand your children’s misbehaviour and elicit their cooperation, using Adlerian parenting principles.

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 humanistic work of the late child psychologist, Dr. Haim Ginott, using examples from their own family lives.


How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (2012)

Reprinted regularly since the 1970s. this classic book teaches practical, relational and respectful parenting strategies. More philosophy than technique per se, but deeply influential.

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.


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.


9-8-8 Suicide Crisis Helpline

Call or text 9-8-8, from anywhere in Canada, 24/7.

Discovery College – Canadian Mental Health Association

A wealth of free online mental-health related courses, developed in conjunction with people who have lived experience.

Anger – A Self-Help Guide by Moodjuice

A self-help and educational guide about anger, from the counselling department at McGill University.

Vancouver Low-Cost Counselling List

List of private master’s-level counsellors, or their interns, offering subsidized counselling. Updated quarterly.

Crisis Services and Hotlines in Vancouver

Resource list, updated quarterly.

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.