One of the most common issues couples struggle with is communication.
Partners say things like, "We either don't talk at all, or we're getting into pointless arguments. We used to talk for hours. I don't know what happened."
Couples long to have the kind of closeness they enjoyed early in their relationship, but hot button topics, repeated cycles of unresolved conflict, and widening distance can seem insurmountable. Most couples are intuitively aware of a pattern underlying most of their conflicts. They can predict the moves in a disagreement before the first sentence is uttered. "I'll say 'this', my partner will say 'that,' then I'll say 'this,' next thing you know it's 3 hours later and nothing is better."
When we're struggling in our most important relationship we're understandably stressed, anxious, and worried. In search of stable ground partners begin to enact their most reliable coping strategy for stress. Often the favorite strategy of one partner is exactly opposed to the favorite coping strategy of the other partner. After a while partners may find themselves polarizing into two opposing stances:
- One partner retreating into silence
- The other partner making increasingly insistent bids for further contact and discussion.
Partners stuck in this dance forget that they are both fighting to stabilize themselves and the relationship. They may be bewildered by the behavior of the other and begin to believe their partner just doesn't care.