top of page

Why Do Couples Fall in and Out of Love All Relationships face Hurdles

In any relationship, conflict is as certain to come as the changing of the seasons. There are three primary sources for most conflict: emotional injuries from childhood getting reactivated, difficulty giving/receiving personal criticism when required, and lack of vulnerable emotional communication to navigate disagreements and resolve conflict. Despite all of our best efforts, many of us will lose ourselves and act out when it comes to the handling of conflict if not aware and attuned to how our partners trigger our childhood defences.

  1. Each person will come into their relationship with a set of “wounds” that leave them vulnerable and susceptible to getting hurt by a partner in a similar way that they were hurt by attachment figures from their childhood. We all carry conscious and unconscious wounds and traumas that get re-activated during stressful, critical moments in our intimate relationships. These moments present an opportunity for healing if the individual can claim and understand their emotional issues rather than blaming the other for unpleasant, painful feelings. Unfortunately, when we are triggered by our partners, a part of our brain called the amygdala (emotional or primitive brain) is activated and prevents us from thinking rationally enough to see the distorted ways that we tend to perceive our partner’s behaviour and intentions. Additionally, the projections (mins seeing/mishearing) on to our partners lead them to get defensive and this often escalates into conflict.

  2. Most individuals in a relationship are uncomfortable giving personal criticism and instead, when hurt or frustrated, will tend to blame their partners for not understanding and caring about their feelings. Personal feedback can stir up trouble if not skillfully communicated. To tell your wife/girlfriend or husband/boyfriend about a “blind spot” or negative behavioural pattern you see in them can be a risky mission for most because they haven’t learned how to deliver that message or how to actively listen without getting defensive or reactive. Developing the skill set to both send and receive sensitive information is very important to sustaining an honest and open intimacy as otherwise blaming and sarcasm become the go-to language.

  3. Finally, developing oneself so as toto be able to recognize and express the range of emotions that one feels is key to maintaining open communication. Being able to acknowledge and know oneself well enough to express the secondary and primary emotions is very important because often things go off the rails when a person is focusing on a feeling that has more to do with a deeper feeling, but they don’t realize it. For example, a person may feel angry about being hurt or shame about their anxiety, etc. Learning to become more skilful in getting into the deeper, more vulnerable feelings is crucial to being heard and understood and then dealing with the issue at hand. Being open and real emotionally also helps support an affectionate and sexual relationship.

Unfortunately, without the relational skills, the negativity and tension eventually take over, and the individuals resort to various symptomatic strategies, i.e. becoming touchy or sticky, verbally fighting over minor and major issues alike, denying their anger, avoiding conflict at any cost to escape the hurt and disappointment, resigning themselves to the loss of aliveness and intimacy thus creating a “Pleasantville” façade (a popular 50’s strategy.) Unaware of how to get their partner to change and better meet their needs, couples become more emotionally cut off, distant, and hopeless about things ever-changing.

Whether it’s dealing with the negativity by becoming verbally combative or withdrawn into a state of denial and avoidance, the sad reality is that one’s relationship is far away from where it started.

3. Overview of the Skills for Intimacy

The good news is that there is a way forward despite our biological propensity to defend and blame our way out of conflict. Through building self-awareness and understanding the source of our intense emotional triggers and projections, we can learn to minimize our blaming tendencies and put the emotion where it belongs. Investigating how events from our past may be wreaking much more havoc on our present-day love relationships than we had considered can be quite eye-opening

When we can admit our shortcomings and defensive feelings and commit to developing ourselves, we create space for our partners to truly get to know us so that we both can have a relationship built on love, trust, and realistic expectations.

4. Practical suggestions for distressed couples:

  1. If your relationship is in trouble, admit it. Outside individual and couple’s therapy can be informative and helpful. Deciding that you want to make a personal commitment to open up and address longstanding issues within yourself and with your partner can make a difference. Approach your partner and share what you want to do and be willing to consider both individual and couple’s therapy to address the difficulties.

  2. If one partner is ambivalent and does not want to attend therapy, I would recommend individual therapy to the motivated partner to explore their issues and work on developing themselves. If the unmotivated partner hears that their partner is having a productive experience and can see some changes in their partner, this can help them overcome their reticence. Or, if after some time your partner’s posture hasn’t shifted because of their fear or defensiveness, then you would want to address this reality in your therapy.

  3. Engage in some type of calming practice to help regulate your “monkey mind” (the tendency to ruminate and get caught in overthinking) and develop your body awareness. Research shows that practices such as mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, and related practices help calm the nervous system and counter the effects of intense emotional triggers.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page