Perhaps you’ve pulled away from your friends or family, and you’re not talking to them as much, or you’re avoiding events where you’d usually catch up. Or maybe you find yourself getting frustrated and angry with people around you, and find yourself arguing or fighting with them. This section will help you find out more about improving the quality of your relationships.

Do I have a problem with relationships?

Often, struggling to get along with other people is one of the first signs that we’re not travelling so well. Living with stress and unpleasant moods doesn’t just affect the way we feel about ourselves, but also the way we interact with other people. Because our friends and family are so important for our wellbeing, not getting along with them can mean we’re left with no supports. People often describe a vicious cycle of needing support from those around them, but pushing them away, and becoming more isolated.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s your mates, your family, or your partner, it takes effort to keep relationships working well. And sometimes, you just don’t have the time or the energy to make that effort. If you’re stressed or going through a rough time you might not feel motivated to reach out to people or spend time with them. It might be that you just don’t feel like talking to people, or you feel uncomfortable sharing things that are on your mind. Maybe you just don’t want to burden your friends and families with your concerns, or maybe you find that when you try and talk about your problems, you just end up arguing and then the problems never get solved. If any or some of these things are occurring, you might benefit from getting some support to help get your relationships back on track.

Why am I struggling in relationships?

There are probably some good reasons that you’re finding it harder to get along with people. It may be that you’re going through a major life change, or having to deal with a lot of setbacks. For some veterans and serving members, relationship problems can be related to a mental health problem like depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, alcohol and other drug use. . Often, finding a solution to relationship problems might mean sorting out the underlying issue, whether that means getting treatment for a mental health problem or addressing other issues, for example, seeing a financial advisor about getting your debts under control. Building your problem solving skills and learning how to keep calm can help you deal with relationship problems more effectively, without every discussion ending up in an argument.

Take Action: Improve relationships by  Staying Calm in stressful situations

If you are feeling stressed your breathing can become more rapid and shallow, which makes it difficult to think clearly and communicate calmly to others.

The Controlled Breathing tool will teach you how to slow your breathing rate, to help you manage stress and maintain good relationships.

This skill will take some practice at first. When you’re starting out it’s best to practice controlled breathing once a day, when you are feeling calm. Once you’ve learnt the skill you can then use it to calm yourself down in stressful situations.

This tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go. 

Take Action: Use Problem Solving to deal with relationship issues

A problem solving approach can be very helpful in addressing relationship issues.

The Problem Solving tool can help you to work though the relationship issue step-by-step and find solutions.

When you’re starting out, use the tool to solve a relationship issue that is not too difficult. Once you’ve learned the skills you can start to apply the problem solving steps to all sorts of situations and issues.

This tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go.

The impact of PTSD on relationships

Some aspects of PTSD, like distressing memories, feeling irritable and ‘on edge,’, and the tendency to avoid situations and people, can be especially problematic for relationships. Feeling ‘on edge’ can increase the likelihood of aggression and domestic violence. Avoidance can get in the way of intimacy between you and your partner, and also tends to make you less satisfied with your relationship. Partners can also experience anxiety, depression, social isolation and feelings of hopelessness as a result of a veteran’s mental health problems. Partners of veterans with PTSD often talk about ‘walking on eggshells’ around the veteran and being afraid of their potential reactions.

Do I have a problem with anger or violence?

There is a big difference between feeling angry a lot of the time and being violent, and sometimes people don’t recognise violence when it’s happening. Violence can be things you do, things you say, threats and intimidating acts. It can also mean making people do things they don’t want to do, or stopping them from doing things that are important to them. Some questions you might ask yourself to see if you have a problem with violence include:

  • Are you worried about the effects of your behaviour on your children?
  • Do you feel guilty and feel like you need to make amends for your behaviour?
  • Is your partner or another family member ever afraid of you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you and the people close to you might benefit from getting some help. With support, you can change angry, aggressive and violent behaviours.

Take Action: Improve relationships by getting Better Control of Your Anger

There are some simple strategies that you can use to manage your anger in stressful relationship situations.

Use the Defusing Anger tool to plan which strategies you would like to use when you are angry. These strategies will help you to adjust your physical reactions, behaviours and thoughts.

When you’re starting out, practice using the strategies when you are feeling calm. Once you’ve learned the skills you can use them whenever you feel yourself becoming angry in stressful relationship situations. These skills can be used before, during or after a stressful situation.

This tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go. 

What can I do about it?

 Getting Help

  • A GP is always a good place to start when trying to overcome relationship difficulties, as they can help with a thorough assessment of the problem and make referrals for specialists if necessary.
  • This website has information on a range of professional care that is available to current and former serving members.
  • Relationships Australia offers a broad range of services to individuals, families and communities throughout the country. Core services include counselling, mediation, and family dispute resolution. Contact your state-based Relationships Australia service on 1300 364 277.
  • Family violence prevention programs are run by Relationships Australia, and include a range of services to assist those with violence and or abuse issues in their relationships including family violence programs for perpetrators.
    • 1800 RESPECT provides a telephone and online counselling service to assist people experiencing the effects of sexual assault, domestic or family violence.

Online resources

  • The Raising Children Network provides resources for parents such as tips for setting limits or helping children deal with separation.
  • Head to Health provides access to information about mental health care services, as well as links to online self-help programs.
  • Beacon provides information and links to websites with a range of self-help resources, including mobile applications (apps). Beacon’s content covers both mental and physical wellbeing and is reviewed by health experts to ensure it’s effective and up to date.
  • myCompass is an interactive self-help service that promotes resilience and wellbeing for all Australians. myCompass is a guide to good mental health – it points you in the right direction. You can track your moods, write about them and view information and tips. You can also choose to do one of the modules designed to help you manage mild to moderate stress, anxiety and depression.