About painful relationship dynamics

The occasional conflict is normal and healthy, it can allow partners to raise awareness about each other’s feelings and it can give a chance of growth as individuals and as a couple. Normally couples’ arguments may vary from financial worries to home chores, from the quantity of attention we feel the other is investing in us to the more abstract concept of trust. These situations may especially arise in a multicultural relationship, where cultural and religious differences may lead to miscommunication and conflicts.

The real problem comes though if there’s nothing that is being built after an argument other then anger and frustration, if the only interaction in the couple appears to be a continuous fight with little or no space left for enjoying being together, being grateful for having each another. In the long run, couples suffering from painful dynamics, automatically tend to focus on what’s not working between them and lose touch with one another, starting from their sense of intimacy and slowly (possibly) lead to a break up.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle, or at the end, of an argument and thought “why do I always end up feeling that bad?” or again “why is it always like this between us?”. During a relationship, we unconsciously give to ourselves and each another specific roles within the couple and, when triggered by certain behaviors or feelings, we fall into the same strategies where we re-play those roles with the same painful and dysfunctional results time over time. For example, let’s say that your couple dynamics revolve around one feeling/behaving (especially when under stress like during an argument) like his or her parent and the partner, on the other hand, hooks to them acting/feeling like a child. In a way or in another, as far as you both are hooked in your parent/child roles, the argument may end up either badly or leaving you with a “bad taste in your mouth”, like something’s at some point went wrong. It’s not always easy to recognize which are the specific triggers and strategies involved in a couple’s dynamic as very often we have more an intangible idea of what they are and we can’t see them from a different perspective.

Why symbiosis is so dangerous and so common in a relationship

A typical risk that couples run into is basing their relationship on symbiosis. Symbiosis is synonym of being dependent to one another. During the first period of a romantic relationship partners feel naturally symbiotic, the feeling is great and makes people feel that “they were meant to be” with that person. It’s reassuring perceiving that we think alike, we feel alike and we don’t need words to understand each other. As those feelings begin to fade away though, that is with responsibilities, commitments, routines, practical difficulties, growing apart, couples that have based their relationship on symbiosis, begin to have the feeling they’ve lost themselves in the couple, that most of all they are playing a role that is expected of them. Over time they start resenting not being able to be the person they used to or they want to be. At this stage they feel blaming their partner for their frustrating situation, impoverishment and lack of joy in life.

What I can do for you to help you finding yourself in the couple

Unveiling dynamics underlying the way we act and the way we feel in the couple is a complex task. It can be very confusing for both sides to understand these dynamics, therefore makes it more complex for people to resolve conflict and move beyond their current situation. Research suggests that the most effective way of resolving couples conflict is to reveal the underlying vulnerable feelings and, together with a counselor, analyzing which are the situations that trigger those feelings and consequent painful behaviors. I’d work with you to analyze your dynamics, set a different way of communicating with your partner that will keep you away from feeling stuck in a dysfunctional and painful vicious circle. We will also work on finding your real self and how to give it a place in the couple so that you can feel again free to be yourself and appreciated for who you are. I normally work with the individual, not the couple, towards awareness of their own patterns and understanding of their partner’s.

What you can do to improve your relationship

The following basic strategies might help to trigger creative ways to overcome couples’ difficulties. This is not a treatment; it’s just a useful way to start handling challenging arguments.

When the argument is about home chores – Most couples work away from home the whole day, 5 days out of 7. On top of that, who loves doing house keeping more than spending time in more interesting ways? So it’s important to fairly divide the labor at home. Make a list of all chores and decide together, and with flexibility, who is responsible of what.

When you are unhappy about how/how much time you spend  together –With time, inevitably, couple lose their luster. It’s good to have interests in common and enjoying each other’s company in all its forms. Plan date nights when you do things you used to enjoy when you first met or something to break the routine.

Never take anything for granted – Always show appreciation for what the other does for us. Never reject a compliment, it might come across as what your partner thinks of you isn’t important. When having an argument, always show respect and interact with your partner without “pointing the finger”, explaining what you feel and why they behavior made you upset/disappointed. Respect each others feelings, ask for a clarification when you seem not to understand your partner’s feedback or behavior. Most of all, be honest with yourself and with your partner.

Stop mind reading! – Constantly wondering what your partner is thinking is a quick route to anxiety and arguments in the couple. If they say one thing don’t assume they mean another. If they say nothing don’t assume that their silence is significant, either.

Trust – Trust doesn’t only come from being honest and not lying to each other, it also comes from being fair during an argument, being sensitive to other’s feelings, not digging up old wounds, respecting boundaries, being a good listener and not being jealous.

Humor – Sharing the pleasure of humor creates a sense of intimacy, closeness and connection between each other helps seeing qualities that define solid, successful relationships. When you laugh with one another, you create a positive bond in the couple.

If you think that your relationship is at risk, you can consider getting in touch with me, I’ll be happy to listen to your story.