Couples have often said to me: “I don’t understand how our relationship fell apart. It seems like we started out so well. And now look at us!”
Two UCLA researchers studied marriages for over 10 years. They found that negative communication patterns were often in place early on in the marriage. In effect, the patterns wore down the love that existed. They highlighted a number of things can undermine relationships.
Excessive anger is one. I am not talking about being angry or about shouting, now and then. The aggression I am thinking of is more excessive, on-going and untempered. Researchers state that some husbands from divorced couple seriously fail to manage their tempers. These men may think that the relationship can take it. But anger, on an on-going basis, erodes relationships.
Repression is another pattern that can undermine a marriage. Some people do not share what they want or need with their partner. Or they may not share their irritations. Often because they fear conflict. But not being open and honest often leads to resenting their partner. Over time the resentment builds up, which creates distance and contempt. It is hard to even want to be close to someone you resent and for whom you have little respect.
The UCLA researchers believe that denial can be a problem. To preserve peace, some people ignore problems by putting a positive spin on it or by calling it something else. In repression, you know there is problem, but you ignore it. In denial, you call it something else. One woman told me, “he does not spend much time with me, but I know how stressed out he is at work and how he needs his alone time.”
These rationalizations work, for a time, until it reaches a breaking point and someone snaps. It has been reported that partners have been having problems an average of almost 7 years before coming to counseling.
Don’t wait that long to get help.
Copyright by Joseph Dragun