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.
More Articles by Dave
Couples many times ask why they are having problems in relating to each other. Psychologists know that the real problem are many time more complex than just one issue. However, the issue of trust is central to any relationship. Understanding a couple of issues can be of help. (more…)
Relationships are difficult to manage for many reasons. So it is not unusual that people want to run away from life through “Fantasy Games.” At times, relationships can be threatened by how we relate to each other, other people, the fantasies of our minds, and our actions. When one person in the relationship is concerned…
It’s important to feel that our partner notices or responds to our needs. This is referred to as “Turning Towards” ones’ “Bids for Connection” in the Gottman literature. Bids for connection include attempts to get our partner’s attention, interest, or support. (more…)
Therapists know that living with someone who has an anger control problem is both dangerous to your relationship, personal development, and family, but it also has a direct effect on both your emotional and physical health! If you find yourself in a relationship with an openly angry, or passive-aggressive, mate it is important to understand…
Relationships are important to our lives and health. However, some relationships present hazards to our sanity and health in ways that are rarely talked about. In fact, it is hard to believe that the way we relate to each other in a relationship can “induce” rage, anger and reactions in the spouse to the point…
Affairs happen for many reasons The main wound is that trust and comfort in the security of the relationship has been shattered. The fact that we all search for security makes any violation of the relationship, either mental, spiritual, or sexual, much more upsetting. Because we are not expecting it, or that it was not…
What is it that causes people to become involved in extra-marital affairs? There are multiple reasons that affairs happen. What has rarely been explored is how depression is a strong motivating factor in the initiation and continuing nature of affairs. Understanding a number of factors might be of some help in thinking as one finds…
Affairs are difficult for most people to understand. Knowing the vulnerable periods can help in preventing and dealing with them for men and women alike. (more…)
Affairs are complicated endeavors. Legal proceedings don’t resolve the emotional issues. It is more important to focus on your pain and anger rather than on attacking your spouse as you decide what path you wish to take. (more…)
We tend to think that infidelity and affairs are all about sex. In reality, affairs are symptoms that sends a message about problems in the relationship. The betrayal of trust from one’s spouse or partner can be one of the most damaging issues to any relationship. Perhaps you suspect your partner of having an affair.…
When we are upset over something with our partner, we tend to know very clearly what we don’t want. Understanding what we really desire without describing what we dislike can propel communication between partners in a more positive, mutual satisfying direction. (more…)
Marriage is most open to crisis when it is rigid and inflexible. Whatever won’t bend will break, or push others away. Rigid people, who expect specific roles in relationships only create more crises at different relationship developmental points. (more…)
Learning to communicate together takes practice and time. You have to agree to work on it together and use several important steps. Understanding these important steps will help improve communication between you and your partner. (more…)
After a painful divorce or if a relationship falls apart, it is important that we take a honest look and understand why the relationship fell apart to ensure that we are whole and ready before we can be a good partner to someone else. (more…)
We have a tendency to believe that our marriage will “always be there” and never be in crisis. We also realize that all relationships have their ups and downs, and this helps prepare us for difficulties down the road. However, when a significant crisis or traumatic event happens, the stability of any relationship can be…
The process of “becoming a couple” is filled with many emotions, feelings, attitudes, risking and identification with another person. Relationship problems happen when these same emotions are injured in any way. When one “sees and hears” much blaming and emotions between a couple, it is clear that there has been an “attachment bond injury” that…
We sometimes wonder why we get ourselves into difficult relationships that “turn out bad” when they seemed so “promising” at the beginning. Sometimes we notice ourselves continuing to “pick the wrong ones” over and over again and cannot figure out what is happening. Many times we attribute it to the other person and think that…
The other day, I had to fix a broken light switch. Yep, I didn’t know those could stop working either. Fortunately, I remembered enough about electrical wiring that it was a simple task: Trip to the hardware store, turn off the electricity and swap out the faulty switch.Unfortunately, fixing our spouse or partner isn’t as…
The Freedom of Choice is the most valued factor in our lives. Human beings will do most anything to insure that they can have choice in all of their decisions. Much of what counselors, therapists and psychologists hear in therapy is related to a sense that the individual does not have a sense of choice…
Relationships go through many stages, ups and downs, good times and bad. Most of the time we get through these difficult periods. At times, our intuition tells us that the relationship is in the midst of a crisis. Affairs can threaten your trust in the relationship. (more…)
There are too many myths about what makes a relationship work. Drs. John & Judy Gottman researched this for over 15 years and found the actual, practical relationship issues that actually make a difference. Understanding these essential communication skills and concepts can make the difference between relationship failure or success. (more…)
There are ways of evaluating the potential of future violent acts by those people we associate with in our daily lives. Part of the problem is that we “choose to ignore” the signs and symptoms that suggest future problems in our relationships out of our “hopes, needs and desires.” (more…)
Psychologists have studied couples for years in order to find out what makes for a lasting relationship. However, predicting what is going to work “before” the marriage is more difficult. Ted Huston, Ph.D. found that marriages fall into four distinct groups: Married and happy; married and unhappy; divorced early, within seven years, or divorced later,…
If you do end up getting divorced, the loss of this relationship will be a very difficult time for all concerned. It brings out many emotions, causes much confusion, and affects children, adults, parents, and the community. Relationships are important to our lives and it is difficult for us to experience the loss of them.…
It is incredibly painful and heartbreaking when you realize that the person you love is hostile towards you. Especially when we know that we deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. You want to help your partner understand that there is a better way to talk with you, but instead they insist on controlling…
All marriages have difficult times that at times can seem overwhelming and confusing. We all ask the question about whether or not it is worth the efforts to stay married. The question of, “Should I stay or should I go” weighs heavily on us. Sometimes, we end up stuck with the conflicting thought that our…