Family love is like the wind: instinctive, raw, fragile, beautiful, at times angry, but always unstoppable. It is our last miracle. James McBride

Committed intimate relationships can be the greatest source of health, happiness, self-renewal, and a long life, and yet at times it is the place of profoundest misery.

I have spent 5 profoundly satisfying decades providing couple’s therapy to rehabilitate relationships; to coach and train people to hold on to each other when the going gets tough; to be kind and truthful especially during troubled times when life interrupts the dream or when love turns to contempt.

Nature doesn’t outfit us with consistent good judgment nor perfect self-knowledge. No more so than in the hot house of an intimate relationship where personal growth and life changes accelerate. Misunderstandings and misperceptions are the norm. We project our own fears and blindness onto our partner and believe it is they who are messing things up.

In this intimate greenhouse, triggers from past traumas will manifest over time. We can deny it all we like, but 50 years of observing family, friends and clients’ relationships has taught me that it is a fact. What we resist persists despite our putting the past behind us. As Alain de Botton humorously suggests in this video, we can come to believe we have married the wrong person, when it may just be the triggers we don’t address.

The simplest and most challenging way of working with difficult moments in our relationship is to respond well even when our partners disappoint or hurt us. To bring the best version of ourselves to the fore when we are feeling the most vulnerable. To own our stuff as soon into the cycle as we become aware of it.

There is no intimacy without vulnerability and all of us bring specific vulnerabilities into our relationship – buttons to press. If our partners don’t find them our children certainly will. And the buttons that those people miss, life will find in her own way and keep representing it to us until we get it.

Sheer suffering does not teach. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise since everyone suffers. To suffer alone, however, is intolerable.

Taken in small steps, going slow and working collaboratively will almost always solve couple trouble with wise professional help as mid wife to the process. It is not possible to do that with a severe narcissist – read my article on site.

Sometimes even one couple therapy session can kickstart a simple life change or a small shift in perception, in meaning and in values, which can impact on those significant others, friends, children and even pets who are not directly engaged in the process.

Doesn’t matter where you are, there’s so much to learn about intimate relationships from the scientific research and from the experience of elders. My favourite starter books are Sue Johnson’s ‘Hold Me Tight’ and Stosny and Love’s ‘How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About it’. YouTube is a rich source of that wisdom for example, Alain de Botton, Bessel van der Kolck, John Gottman, Esther Perel, Gabriel Matte just for starters. Refusal to plunge into that knowledge base at the outset of an intimate relationship, refusal to seek help in a cyclically damaging relationship of micro traumas are red flags.


Here is a group of local women advocating and collecting funds in a tin for a marriage workshop in the Sani Pass, Lesotho mountains, South Africa.