Most people attribute conflict in relationships as problems with the kids, money, stress or sex. All of these things add pressures to relationships; however they are not the root cause of conflict. The may cause of the problem is that the ways that couples are trying to communicate their attachment needs is causing core insecurities in each partner.
As stated previously, 80% of the couples that come into the therapy room are caught up the same negative communication dance. One partner (Pursuer) is feeling alone and afraid that they are losing their partner and pursues connection with them with angry questioning, demanding, and criticism while the other partner (Withdrawer) is feeling hurt and afraid that they will be rejected and not good enough and they often defend, blow up or withdraw to protect themselves and the relationship from further conflict. As they move away the Pursuer panics more and attacks creating a vicious cycle that feeds deep insecurities.
Couples need to learn how to identify the pattern that they are getting caught in and realize that the pattern is the problem not their partner. Once you unlatch yourself from the conflict (or it is over) it is important to tune into your feelings inside and ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?’ “What do I need for reassurance?” In therapy I work towards finding the deeper insecurities and create the safety for those insecurities to be brought out in the therapy room and reassured.
The Pursuer in the relationship is often in a very painful and fearful position in the relationship. The more they see their partner withdraw and look uninterested in spending time with them the more they panic inside and feel afraid that they are losing their partner. Sometimes their deepest insecurities relate to themselves. They may think, “I not lovable” “I’m too much (too crazy/angry/bad)” (with all my angry reactions) “They are not attracted to me” “They do not like me as a person” “Am I not important or special to them” “They really don’t care or value me” “Am I unworthy an undeserving of my partner’s love and care.” There biggest fear is that they are going to drive their partner away and ultimately be abandoned and alone.
The Withdrawers insecurities are usually based around fears of rejection. They may think things such as, “I am not good enough for my partner” “I am inadequate; I fall short of what she/he needs” “I am not valued” “I am useless or worthless” “I have failed as a partner.” Often the withdrawer will blow up or defend because underneath that are afraid that they are inadequate or failing and they want to hide that fear.
The negative communication pattern of attack vs. withdraw/defend creates and exacerbates these insecurities. However what couples don’t realize is that the deeper insecurities also drive the pattern. Little things take on different meanings to the point that everything starts to mean that you are losing your partner’s love or failing. Learning that the negative pattern is the causing the problem and how to identify it and stop it is the first step to healing your relationship. Creating the safety in therapy for these deep insecurities to brought out and reassured is essential for couples to find their way back to feeling peace within themselves and within their relationship.
If you feel like you can relate to some of these relationship problems and want to seek help please call A Path of Heart Counselling for Couples Counselling or a Couples Weekend Workshop.