Relationship & Life Transitions

Sometimes you need help with an ongoing relationship with a partner, family member, or close friend—or help moving through the loss of such a relationship. You may also be in the middle of, or recovering from, life changes and transitions that change how you see others, the world, or yourself.

A note of hope: especially with help, we can grow through and beyond these processes and who we were before them.

It can be painfully frustrating and disappointing when a close relationship or way of life begins to fail—or stays unchanged in a harmful, growth-reducing, or anxiety provoking way. On the other hand, a loss of a relationship or a previous lifestyle can be disorienting, with some temporary loss of identity or meaning. Both situations can lead to regret, grief, resentment, anger, guilt, or shame.

Coping with relationship stress, calling Dr. Chris Michael in Claremont, CA

Regarding relationship coping and losses

While couples or conjoint therapy is often used, you might need to address the problem in your own individual therapy. For example, sometimes the other person in the relationship does not want to go to couples or conjoint counseling. Alternatively, you might have your own reasons for wanting to go to individual psychotherapy or counseling:

  • Perhaps for now you feel too vulnerable in the relationship to trust that couples work will be fairly executed
  • You might be worried about whether conjoint counseling will be emotionally manageable right now.
  • The other person might be too easily hurt and unable to work productively in couples
  • The other person might have problems that are not their fault. You may need help regarding how to approach and work with them.
  • You might be going through changes or troubles that make relating feel strange or difficult now.
  • Maybe you are not the more assertive or extroverted person in the relationship and feel at a disadvantage in couples work.
  • You might recognize that you are part of the trouble in the relationship and first make some changes on your own.
  • Sometimes the other person expects you to work on yourself first. If you can agree that you contribute to problems, we can do that work.

In other cases, couples or conjoint therapy did not work well when it was tried.

  • This can occur when one or both people has difficulty with open communication, fairness, compromise, or constructive criticism.
  • Couples / conjoint work can be sub-optimal if the therapist is biased toward one member of the couple.
  • Also, in previous or ongoing couples work, one or both people might decide they need to start by doing separate work on themselves

Different personalities weather each type of life change differently

Regarding personalities and matches between them, I think in terms of personality styles. For one example, see Oldham & Morris (1995). Please see my growing series of related blog posts, here on my site. Personality mismatches are obviously not the only reason you might need individualized help with your relationships or life changes, though.

Sometimes relationships just change or life imposes on us more than usual

Personalities can change, usually moderately (but noticeably), over time. Health crises (or their treatment) can lead to changes in the person with the health problem, other people, or both. The financial or other fortunes of one or more people in relationships can change. Major societal events can also be a major source of stressors for individuals and families. The balance in work / home / social life can change, affecting relationships and satisfaction. Children, infidelity, sibling conflicts, or aging parents can cause differences in relationships that are hard to resolve.

Dr. Chris Michael on growth through life transitions and changes


Individualized work on managing relationships and life transitions often involves:

  • Support for, and fresh thinking about, coping with the partner, family member, friend, or life change
  • Learning to cope with or improve the effectiveness of your responses to the others and events
  • Grieving changes, time lost, or the loss of a relationship, self-image, physical or mental capacity, activity, or job
  • Cultivating compassion and forgiveness for yourself and others
  • Cultivating a willingness to seek help and adapt, as well as learning you deserve it

There are any number of reasons you can come for individual psychotherapy to manage ongoing troubles, changes, or losses in relationships or life routines. If you are in such a situation, you do not have to be stuck in grief or frustration. Decide to do what you can by calling or secure emailing me to arrange a free, 15-minute telephone consultation. You can also request an appointment.

For more on my therapy style, see here and here. For a page about telehealth / online therapy go here.