When relationships come under strain, we often find ourselves getting into arguments that have a ‘set piece’ feel about them. Whatever they are about, we hear the same things being said. We hear telling phrases being flung at each other, ‘This is you all over!’, ‘Why do you always do this?’ which are more about patterns of conflict, and less to do with the actual thing the couple are meant to be arguing about.
However, step back and, underneath the battling, it might be that the feeling for each other is still there, but just lost in all the antagonism and conflict. There may be more vulnerable emotions sitting just underneath all the anger. Someone might feel unheard, or devalued, or that the other person has lost interest in them. Understanding this can then allow engagement with patterns in a more constructive way. Often there is a way back to a happier relationship.
Relationships can be looked at in both individual and couples therapy. Individual therapy would involve looking at these patterns from the individual’s point of view. There may be hidden self-defeating behaviours at work – perhaps fear of commitment, or intimacy, or of getting close and then being abandoned. Or there may be family patterns that re-emerge, perhaps hidden feelings that relationships can’t work, or can bring distress or just aren’t worth all the aggravation. Some of these things are difficult to spot when you are close to them which is where therapy might help.
Understanding relationship dynamics enables people to make different choices about their relationships, rather than being entangled in behaviours which they may find difficult to see in themselves. There is then the possibility of new ways forward.