High Conflict Relationships
Regaining Intimacy and Trust Even When it Seems Like All You Do Anymore is Fight
Many of us have tumultuous periods in our relationships when there are too many issues and topics that we just can’t seem to touch on without fighting. Many couples try to find ways around these topics by burying or ignoring them, but too often this just ends up increasing the tension in our relationships, making more and more issues feel like they are too hot to manage. Making us feel like “everything” turns into a fight.
Interpersonal conflicts are not resolved by eradicating differences, but by learning how to manage them.
- Terry Real
All relationships continually move through a cycle of harmony, disharmony, and repair. Most of us think that the problem lies in the disharmony, the fight. Too many of us have bought into the idea that in “good” relationships, couples don’t have significant disagreements. We mistakenly believe that if we had the “right” partner, or if our partners were a “better” version of themself, or like they “used to be” that these ruptures wouldn’t occur. But disagreements, disappointments, and even big blow-out staying up until all hours of the night arguments are not the source of the problem in our romantic relationships. Ruptures are natural in all human relationships and, if handled with some key skills and techniques, can actually offer an opportunity for getting closer to our partners. Unfortunately, few of us can approach disharmony with the necessary skill and grace to achieve this connection. Instead, we may lose control, yell, scream, and name-call, behaving in ways that we’re embarrassed to admit, even to ourselves.
Of course, on some level, even our most out of control expressions of hurt and anger are actually a perverse expression of our yearning for connection. When our partner disappoints us, when they let us down, when we don’t get what we want from them, we want our partners to viscerally understand the depth of how horrible we feel, to get the full impact of their actions on us. We launch into unbridled self-expression from a desire to not only to unleash our anger and vent but also to get our partners to actually experience our upset.
For many of us what we experienced in the culture of our families growing up as well as the implicit and explicit broader cultural messaging against keeping things “bottled up” actually encourages this destructive behavior in the name of “openness,” “honesty,” “authenticity,” or “healthy self-expression.” Early therapeutic models also often encouraged such conduct as an alternative to suppressing our feelings. But this is a false dichotomy. The options aren’t to either rage at our partners or to just swallow our feelings and suck it up. There’s a vast difference between telling your partner, “I’m really angry that you told the neighbors that we’d go to their Ugly Christmas Sweater in July party without checking with me first.” And screaming at them, “I can’t believe you would be so presumptuous and inconsiderate! What the &%*@ do you expect me to wear?”
Fighting and attacking are rarely an effective way to make our partner understand our feelings and needs. Instead, real intimacy develops when the relationship runs into conflict and difficulty, and both people can come back together to share a more vulnerable and flawed part of themselves while developing a deeper understanding of each other.
Unfortunately, few of us come into our relationships knowing how to do this. Most of us ride the waves of our emotions and reactions, allowing the rawest parts of ourselves to take control during difficult and sensitive moments. Over time, these reactions make certain topics and issues feel impossibly loaded, leaving couples in a state where they either avoid an issue entirely or blow up about it. Either way, these behaviors foster disconnection, resentment, turmoil, and pain in the relationship instead of authenticity, intimacy, understanding, and growth.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can heal and build an intimate, connected, and cherishing relationship. If you want to heal the damage that gets in the way of intimate connection, I’d love to help you get there. Reach out. I can help.
The relationship you wish for is possible, but sometimes skills and tools aren’t enough to get you there. Most of us have times in our lives when we need help to rebuild the passion and connection in our relationships. If this is where you are - reach out. I can help.
It Really Can Be Better
The relationship you wish for is possible, but sometimes skills and tools aren’t enough to get you there. Most of us have times in our lives when we need help to rebuild the passion and connection in our relationships.
If this is where you are - reach out. I can help.
Contact me today for a twenty-minute free phone consultation or to set up an initial ninety-minute session.