How to Keep a Relationship Going – Free Ebook

How can you tell whether a relationship is
going to last the course – or whether it’s

doomed to founder? What’s the difference
between fragile and solid couples? Here are

some of the things to look out for:

Over-optimism about Relationships
Fragile couples tend, paradoxically, to be

very hopeful about love. They associate happiness
with conflict-free unions. They do not expect,

once they have found the person they unwisely
see as The One, ever to need to squabble,

storm out of a room or feel unhappy for the
afternoon. When trouble emerges, as it inevitably

does, they do not greet it as a sign that
love is progressing as it should; rather as

alarming evidence that their relationship
may be illegitimate and fundamentally flawed.

Their hopes tire them for the patient tasks
of diplomatic negotiation and routine maintenance.

Out of touch with Pain
Fragile couples tend not to be good detectives

of their own sufferings. They may be both
unhappy and yet unsure as to the actual causes

of their dissatisfactions; they know that
something is wrong in their unions, but they

can’t easily trace the catalysts. They can’t
zero in on the way that it was the lack of

trust in them around money that rankles or
that it has been their behaviour towards a

demanding youngest child that has been hurting.
They lash out in vague or inaccurate directions,

their attacks either unfairly general or unconvincingly

A shamed person has fundamental doubts about

their right to exist: somewhere in the past,
they have been imbued with an impression that

they do not matter very much, that their feelings
should be ignored, that their happiness is

not a priority, that their words do not count.
Once they are in a couple, shamed people hurt

like anyone else, but their capacity to turn
their hurt into something another person can

understand, and be touched by, is recklessly
weak. Shamed people will sulk rather than

speak, hide rather than divulge, feel secretly
wretched rather than candidly complain. It

is frequently very late, far too late, by
the time shamed people finally let their lover

know more about the nature of their desperation.

Excessive Anxiety
Complaining well requires an impression that

not everything depends on the complaint being
heard perfectly. Were the lesson to go wrong,

were the other to prove intransigent, one
could survive and take one’s love elsewhere.

Not everything is at stake in an argument.
The other hasn’t ruined one’s life. One

therefore doesn’t need to scream, hector,
insist or nag. One can deliver a complaint

with some of the nonchalance of a calm teacher
who wants an audience to learn but can bear

it if they don’t; one could always say what
one has on one’s minds tomorrow, or the

next day.

Excessive Pride
It takes an inner dignity not to mind too

much about having to level complaints around
things that could sound laughably ‘small’

or that leave one open to being described
as petty or needy. With too much pride and

fear, it can become unbearable to admit that
one has been upset since lunch because they

didn’t take one’s hand on a walk, or that
one wishes so much that they would be readier

to hug one last thing at night. One has to
feel quite grown up inside not to be offended

by one’s own more childlike appetites for
reassurance and comfort. It is an achievement

to know how to be strong about one’s vulnerability.
One may have said, rather too many times,

from behind a slammed door, in a defensive
tone, ‘No, nothing is wrong whatsoever.

Go away’, when secretly longing to be comforted
and understood like a weepy, upset child.

Hopelessness about Dialogue
Fragile couples often come together with few

positive childhood memories of conversations
working out: early role models may simply

have screamed and then despaired of one another.
They may never have witnessed disagreements

eventually morphing into mutual understanding
and sympathy. They would deeply love to be

understood, but they can bring precious few
resources to the task of making themselves


None of these factors mean a couple will split
up, but they are generators of the states

of emotional disconnection that can eventually
break two people apart. Outwardly, things

may seemingly be well. A couple may have an
interesting social life, some lovely children,

a new apartment. But a more judicious analysis
will reveal an unexpected degree of risk.

The good news is that knowing a little about
the risk factors can help us identify them

in good time – and, with the help of good
advice, for example, from the School of Life, fix them

while there is still time.

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