Guest Post by Irving Schattner
Edit and Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by Antranias via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
Long-term relationships and marriage require your work, attention, and ability to grow through challenges. Oftentimes couples stay stuck in problematic patterns and are unable to grow together.
Drawing from my experience in working with couples, whether married or cohabitating, I’ve identified some reasons why these relationships fail to thrive and ultimately unravel. While this list is not exhaustive, identifying with any of these 7 indicators should give one pause and call forth the need for some sort of intervention.
Couples who refuse to listen to one another’s needs, desires and life goals, talk over one another, are embroiled in conflict, hostility, blame and /or defensiveness, are basically waging war with the enemy rather than constructively and lovingly engaging with the person who should be their best friend. Couples want to feel safe, cared for, and loved rather than feeling they are embroiled in a war zone.
The need of one or more partners to be “right” leads to a judgmental attitude and anger which derail communication and, therefore, problem solving. Conflict avoidance leads to emotional and physical disconnect. Unsuccessful attempts at engagement result in one or more partners giving up and withdrawing. As disengagement intensifies, the relationship is at impasse and requires outside help to re-engage.
Addictions and other maladaptive behaviors
Addictions and other compulsive and maladaptive behaviors lead to lies and deceit, betrayal, and erosion of trust, hurt and pain. Attempts to placate or pacify the addict lead to denial and co-dependence by the non-using partner who, in effect, becomes part of the problem rather than the solution by bailing out the addicted partner and, consequently, sustaining the addiction. The addiction must be addressed through treatment, as well as support for the non-abusing partner.
Laziness and other character flaws
Love is based on mutual trust and respect. Lies and deceit, disloyalty, unwillingness to help out their partner, or withdrawal from or avoidance of financial, social, and household responsibilities, shift the burden onto their partner. What should be a partnership of equals feels more like an unbalanced parent / child relationship.
Stepping outside of the relationship to satisfy fantasies and unresolved needs and desires can lead to disengagement from one’s partner and eventual dissolution of one’s primary relationship. It’s important for couples to share their needs, desires, and fantasies with one another rather than an outsider. Once boundaries are crossed, it’s difficult if not impossible to repair the damage and hurt inflicted on one’s relationship. While some partners are willing to work on damage control and repair, for others the hurt and distrust caused by “stepping out” can never be reconciled and are beyond repair.
A healthy relationship depends on acceptance, appreciation, admiration, and feeling emotionally secure. Hurt and anger undermine the relationship when differences of opinion turn into contempt, criticism, lack of respect, and minimizing or discrediting your partner’s thoughts or feelings. When one or both partners feel mistreated or unfairly judged, there is a tendency to retaliate in kind or withdraw and not share one’s thoughts and ideas. Showing love to one’s partner under these conditions is often difficult.
Aggression or explosive outbursts
Expressing one’s anger in a constructive way can lead to healthy problem solving. However, when practiced aggressively or with rage, it can invoke fear and avoidance, which undermine constructive communication and can lead to serious physical and emotional abuse. When this occurs, the implicit expectation of safety, security, and trust in the relationship is seriously undermined as things spiral out of control.
Together yet apart
While it is healthy and realistic to have interests outside of one’s relationship, preferring the solitude of one’s company or the company of others at the expense of sharing activities and free time with one’s partner is a strong indicator of a problematic relationship. Failure to address the emotional and physical needs of one’s partner through shared interests and pursuits, can lead to disengagement from one’s partner and ultimately dissolution of the relationship.
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
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