Relationships: Does Advice Help?

Hilary Smith

Hilary Smith is a writer with Relationships Aotearoa and an experienced counsellor.

Everyone's got an opinion about relationships, but does advice really help?


Playwrights, priests, psychologists, writers, counsellors, songwriters, next door neighbours and bartenders, to name but a few, all have something to say about relationships. All are experts with their own particular brand of advice, but does sharing their knowing make our relationships more loving, lasting, satisfying or secure? Probably not!

Maybe we expect too much from our relationships! In days gone by, the roles we played in our relationships were more clearly defined. These definitions shaped the expectations men and women took to the altar. Yes, Clark Gable did exist, and romance fluttered in our hearts and minds, but by and large, the biggies like 'being a good provider' or, 'a good mother and housekeeper' informed us about how good our relationship really was!

Then my generation was born and the fulfilment of personal wants and needs ( non-stop excitement, eternal romantic bliss and multiple orgasms) was placed on the expectation menu. Currently, in the age of 'Super Size Me', a new generation of expectations have been added to the menu. Super Mums, Dads, Grandparents, Aunties and Dogs are expected to work long hours, make lots of money, be great lovers, psychologically enriched parents and fantastically sensitive partners!

What would my parents say about this if they were still alive? I don't really know, because their generation didn't talk about a lot of things. My parents argued a lot, not unlike Jack and Vera in Coronation St, until my mother was rudely assaulted by Alzheimers disease and my father became a Super Husband. His warm attention and loving care must have met every expectation on the relationship menu. And in ways that I cannot understand or fathom, I believe my mother must have met his.

Having great expectations of our partners is useful, but relationships are imperfect. Advice givers are helpful, but the answers may not be found in their advice. Love is wonderful and as for my parents, it arrived in the most unusual way.

Our own life experiences and the type of society we live in shape personal and relationship expectations. These very things also create the same stressors which leave us feeling unfulfilled and caught in destructive relationships.

If playwrights, priests, psychologists, writers, barmen, writers, neighbours and counsellors can't give us answers, why should we bother listening to them? My father and mother had the ability to live in love, and indeed they did, but it could have happened earlier. By getting advice? No, but hearing or reading something that led them to explore another way of being together might have taken them on a journey where a greater abundance of love arrived earlier.

Great books, terrific movies, wonderful music and effective counselling invite us on a personal journey without divulging the destination. We have to discover the relationship expectations which are really important to us, and find ways to deal with the stressors that stop us from meeting them. It isn't necessarily a matter of hard work. Some couples who have worked very hard on their relationships end up separating.

Embarking on a relationship journey with open minds and hearts can lead us to the love we want. This series of articles are invitations to finding the way within your relationship, myself included.

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