Do you feel alone in your relationship?
Do you avoid closeness, or want more closeness, but your partner feels the opposite?
Are your attempts to get closer feeling futile?
Relationships matter. Commitments matter. Family matters.And so when the most important relationship in your life begins to fall apart, it can leave you feeling sad, hopeless and overwhelmed.
There are three main reasons that emotional distance becomes a problem in relationships: differences in attachment styles, differences in personality, and the use of bad habits such as criticism, blame and defensiveness in trying to resolve your inevitable conflicts.
Attachment styles are formed early in childhood and impact how comfortable we feel in connecting with our adult partner. Couples can have major differences in how close is “too close” or how far is “too far,” and both can feel these differences acutely. Differences in Attachment Styles are what marital researcher John Gottman calls a “perpetual problem”, which will likely resurface many times during the life of the relationship. Often, a “pursuer-distancer” dynamic can emerge with one partner attempting to get closer to the other, and the more distant partner feeling that they need to move even further away due to their discomfort. This painful dance can keep couples locked in negative cycles for years.
How to tell if temperament is at the root of a conflict:
- The very qualities that initially drew you to your partner are now driving you crazy.
- Your partner seems “wrong” in the way he/she perceives things or conducts their life.
- Your partner honestly doesn’t get why you’re annoyed with them.
Often we are drawn to our partner because they are moderately different from us, and this can create a healthy balance in our dynamic. However, as our relationship progresses, the very traits that were so unique and interesting initially can begin to feel stifling, annoying or divisive. Many conflicts center around our different styles of organizing our lives, making decisions and socializing. Often couples feel dismayed or disturbed by the unexpectedly negative feelings they are having towards their partner. Our trained team of couples therapists can administer personality tests and help you understand how you are each “wired.” A knowledge of these differences, and that there where temperament is concerned there is no truly “right” or “wrong” ways to be, can create new opportunities for deepened understanding, less conflict and more closeness.
Behaviors that predict breakup or divorce
According to couple’s researcher John Gottman, couples who regularly use behaviors like defensiveness, criticism and blame tend to eventually break-up. In a practical sense, they begin to have more negative interactions than positive (5-1) versus happy.
What happens during fights?
A key distinctions between those who stay together and those who break up is not THAT they fight, it’s HOW they fight. For example, when women, who tend to bring up about 80% of the issues in a relationship, start the conversation harshly, over time that predicts breakup. Or if one of the partners gets “flooded” physiologically during an argument, that’s another warning sign for the relationship. Recent research shows that men typically get more biologically upset during conflicts with their partner (in ways like increased heart rate, perspiration and secretion of stress hormones), which makes it even more important that women bring up issues in a balanced and non-accusing way. When either sex begins to get upset or threatened, blood is literally shunted away from the “smart” part of our brain, located in the frontal lobe and moves to our more primal brain where the fight or flight response is stored.
Family/Couples counseling can help you:
- Communicate with each other more effectively
- Learn how to resolve conflict and “fight fair”
- Rebuild friendship, intimacy and trust in your relationship
- Find a way to forgive after betrayal and hurt
- Explore the values, hopes and dreams that shape your expectations of your relationship
- Find clarity and hope for your future together
At Charleston Counseling Center, we have a team of therapists who work with couples and families to mend their relationships. Couples counseling sessions are available in a non-judgmental atmosphere that helps them rediscover the most important relationship in their lives.
We accept many forms of insurance and offer evening and weekend appointments for your convenience. Our team of licensed therapists is ready to help get your relationship back on track today. Contact us to make an appointment.