It can be overwhelming, exhausting and disheartening to see the one you love keep your relationship at arms’ length through their words and actions, time and time again. While they agree that there’s a problem, their insight never seems to last. No matter how much you attempt to persuade, help out, adjust or accept, you always seem to end up feeling blamed, shamed, and without escape.
These are the types of patterns that are known as Difficult Relationships. Often, they tend to have these traits in common:
- They have extreme difficulty controlling their moods or emotions. In fact, there don’t seem to have any skills for emotional processing whatsoever. Growing up, they may have never been taught how to deal with or take responsibility for one’s behavior.
- They use fear, obligation or guilt to blame, shame or manipulate or “gaslight” you.
- Emotional and verbal abuse are frequently employed to accomplish this.
- They narrate their life in terms of the negative. Any number of things can be seen as wrong just by their getting out of bed in the morning. If a day happens to go well, they’re on-edge because “the next day probably won’t go well.”
- They demand that you understand them, yet they show a lack of empathy towards you.
- They won’t talk about problems in the relationship and act like they don’t exist.
- When you point out their toxic behavior, they get angry.
- They are stubborn and take everything as a personal assault.
- They are wickedly smart at times, but it gets in their way.
- They respond to ordinary stressful events (i.e., life) as if it is a crisis.
- Despite their bad behavior, they consistently refuse to get help. Nothing ever gets addressed. Nothing ever gets fixed. If you try to bring it up, you get told it’s not a real problem.
- Your partner complains that they’re not getting enough credit for the good word that they do accomplish. However, this work pales in comparison to the negative and destructive behaviors they display.
- You feel isolated, lost and lonely in your relationship with your difficult spouse or partner.
- They claim you’re telling them to be someone they’re not and as a result this makes them feel “not good enough”.
- They punish you by withdrawing or refusing to communicate for hours or days on end. When they’re ready to reconnect, they express frustration that you’re not yet ready to feel safe and connected.
- It scares you to be in a relationship with someone who refuses to recognize their patterns of negative behavior.
What Keeps You Stuck
Now, there are always two sides to every story. However, the things that tend to keep you stuck or at risk of inheriting a difficult spouse or partner include:
- Believing that you have to earn affection or attention (i.e., it’s not freely given).
- Being blind to the patterns of negative behavior. This is often due to growing up in a similar or other chaotic environment.
- You believe that you have to do things to earn love rather than receive it unconditionally.
- You have learned to feel responsible and guilty for things that are not your fault.
- You grew up being treated like the “screw up” (scapegoat).
- You assume you deserve being treated poorly because growing up, you were always treated as being the responsible one. In fact, there wasn’t any room for your problems in the family.
- Growing up, you weren’t allowed to argue or disagree with you family. As a result, you end up believing that you’re always the one in the wrong and that you deserve how you are treated.
- You are responsible to the point of feeling that it’s up to you to take care of, rescue or save other people. As a result, you’ve learned that you have to deal with things and figure it out on your own without expecting others to pitch in.
- You tend to believe that there is a “right” and “wrong” answer to most problems. Sadly, this means that solutions with no clear answer never get addressed or resolved.
- You tend to be focused on managing other peoples’ moods than your own.
- You have a pattern of feeling responsible for your partner, and worry when you “can’t get them” to take their medication, stop drinking, etc.
- When you’re in a difficult relationship, sometimes you wonder what you’re holding on to.
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