Protective Patterns in Couple Relationships, Part 2: That Old, Familiar Tune in Your Marriage

Last week, we saw that as when two partners begin a new couple relationship, their deepest needs for love, understanding, and recognition fulfilled come to the fore. This period of “young love” is called the honeymoon phase, and during this time the couple can’t seem to get enough of each other. Notably, there is little to no conflict during this phase. Alas, a phase is, by definition, temporary. When the arguments finally come, each partner will use the defenses they learned in childhood to protect themselves and minimize their own pain.

Protective Patterns in Couple Relationships, Part 1: The Defensive Self

If you’re married or in a long-term, committed couple relationship, your relationship probably began like many others. You couldn’t wait to see each other and share your experiences. As you exchanged your  hopes and disappointments, your partner was just as excited or sad about them as you were. He or she seemed to understand you perfectly. Your stomach fluttered as you imbibed the intoxicating elixir of love. But then . . . something shifted, didn’t it? Over time, a different pattern of relating set in, one marked by conflict, avoidance, or both. It’s not what you or your partner want, so how did it happen?

On (Emotional) Shackles & Freedom

Today, of course, is the Fourth of July, the holiday during which America remembers its adoption of the Declaration of Independence on this day in 1776. We celebrate that after declaring our independence from Great Britain, we at last gained hard-won freedom after the long years of the Revolutionary War ended in 1783. Though that war is over, Americans still battle in many conflicts throughout the world.

 

A different kind of conflict, however, churns within each of us, regardless of nationality: Each of us fight for our innermost desires and longings to be recognized and understood in our most intimate relationships.

Your Need to Be Emotionally Intimate with Your Partner—And Your Need Not to Be

Have you ever wondered why people seek intimacy in relationships? What is it about emotional intimacy, anyway? Why is feeling connected with a deeply loved partner so much better than just about anything? As a marriage counselor, I know that partners in an intimate, committed, long-term relationship yearn to know and to be known by each other, and yet for so many couples, such intimacy is elusive. Why is cultivating this kind of connection so hard? Because as much as you want to be connected and close to your partner, intimacy is also profoundly frightening. To understand why, we need to consider our need for intimacy first.

Counseling After Infidelity: Cultivating Healing, Finding Hope

What is an affair? Must an affair involve sexual intercourse? What about a kiss? What about pornography? While almost everyone would feel betrayed if a partner had sexual intercourse with a third person, other amorous, intimate behaviors can be equally destructive—dinner with an old girlfriend, for instance, or flirting in online chat rooms. All of these behaviors may constitute a betrayal of trust. An affair is a violation of trust that destroys the fundamental beliefs that the hurt partner had about the unfaithful spouse and the relationship.

4 Ways to Care for Yourself After an Affair

If you’re like most people, when you hear the word “affair,” you probably think about it as an extramarital sexual relationship. Almost everyone would feel betrayed if a partner had sexual intercourse with a third person, but other amorous, intimate behaviors are often equally destructive––lunch with an old girlfriend, for instance, viewing online pornography, or flirting in online chat rooms. All of these behaviors may be violations of trust that destroy the fundamental beliefs that the hurt partner had about the unfaithful spouse and the relationship.

6 Things You Can Do to Argue Constructively with Your Partner

Every couple fights, but fewer couples know how to fight well, that is, to argue in ways that prevent conflicts from causing collateral emotional damage or escalating into vehement brouhahas. Arguing with your partner in ways that actually cultivate intimacy, vulnerability, and emotional safety is difficult for reasons I have recently considered with you.

 

How Couples Hurt Each Other

If you are in a long-term, committed relationship, you know that conflict and emotional pain are unavoidable. All couples fight. Healthy couples are able to repair painful rifts when they occur in ways that cultivate intimacy, vulnerability, and emotional safety, and next week I will write about how couples might do this.  Today, however, we must consider how couples hurt each other now that we know what causes emotional pain.

Why We Hurt

Conflict is inevitable in all of our relationships, and romantic relationships are no exception. Partners in intimate, long-term relationships will surely step on each other’s toes, thereby causing each other emotional pain. Couples need to able to repair painful rifts when they happen in ways that cultivate intimacy, vulnerability, and emotional safety. How might couples do this?