29 Feb

When Love Fails

My clinical experience in working with couples and individuals over the years suggests a fundamental lack of understanding of what it even means to have a truly loving relationship.

In my previous article “Yes, But Do You Really Love Me,” I referred to a specific type of struggle that arises in relationships when one partner is seeking to establish a more meaningful and connected type of relationship, but the other is unable or unwilling to reciprocate.

This article looks more closely at some of the difficulties that arise under these conditions.

There is one basic struggle that seems to arise repeatedly between couples, especially when the commitment level to the relationship begins to deepen. This conflict occurs when one of the partners is seeking a more connected and deeper form of love from their relationship than the other.

It is often the case that their partner in this relationship believes they are already as loving as they could possibly be, and cannot understand why they are being asked for something to be different.

But the partner who knows, or at least feels,  that something truly important and vital is not happening in the relationship may not even be able to explain to the other why they feel so unhappy.

This can creates much confusion and distress for both parties.

The one who doesn’t understand what the problem is may feel unjustly accused, and wonder begin to resent for even raising the issue.

In response, the person raising the issue may start to believe that the problem is with them.  They may conclude (or even be told) they are too needy or that there is something wrong with them they need to solve by their self.

It is not surprising therefore, that when this struggle arises it leads to almost unresolvable conflict.

As a therapist, when I see couples in my practice there is invariably an imbalance between the two partners in terms of their comparative levels of current psychological development.  What satisfies one partner and makes them happy simply doesn’t work for the other; it is not enough.  The net result is that as one partner is pulling for the relationship to change, the other partner is resisting and often pulling for it to remain the same.

Typically, the central issue for change seems to revolve around the ability of the dissatisfied partner who wants more intimacy to properly understand what they are looking for, and to identify this to the resistant partner. Then the question becomes “To what degree can the resistant partner come on side with the wishes of the one seeking change”.

If the initially resistant partner is able and willing to change, then the transition to a higher functioning relationship tends to be fairly smooth and very rewarding for the couple.

If the resistant partner is unwilling to change or unable to do so,  then some very difficult issues arise and it is here that  challenges begin.

The next article will look at this situation is greater detail.

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