Healthy relationships go through predictable stages. One of the stages we call “The Conflict Stage”. Here, after the first heady days of Romantic Love—when you don’t need to sleep, eat and can practically fly, you will start to wrestle with working out how you manage your conflict. You’ll need to express disappointment and disagreement; you’ll start struggling to understand one another’s values and ethics. The impact of gender roles and expectations comes into play. All the negotiations about how to share money, time and resources will be on the table. You long to reconnect with your life direction and what brings you back home. This whole period is characterized by a sense of vulnerability. It is difficult. Yet though healthy relationships may get very difficult, you will know that they are working because each time you navigate this stage (and it does repeat!) you are growing closer and developing ways of being together that work for both of you. Even ending a healthy relationship can be done in ways that make you deeply appreciate one another.

      The unhealthy relationship—the one that is really not working– goes through stages, too. When you hit the Conflict Stage here you will notice, either right away or soon enough—that you are not a team struggling for mutual well-being.

Look for any of these things—

  • Conflict becomes about who can win, and who can hurt the other more effectively.
  • One or both of you becomes explosive.
  • Your partner is really thinking almost exclusively about what is good for him (or her), not about what’s good for you or the relationship.
  • Nothing ever seems to be your partner’s fault, and your partner has an excuse for everything; or, she or he apologizes often for hurtful or irresponsible behavior, but then continues with the same behavior.
  • Your partner is saying and doing things that are just cruel or you are being blamed for things that are not at all your responsibility.
  • You discover your partner is being secretive or dishonest, including about important issues such as money, his or her sexual or romantic relationships with others, or his or her use of substances.
  • You are worrying often about your partner’s self-destructive tendencies, because he or she is drinking or using substances or is suicidal or abusing his or her health in other ways.
  • Your partner is making relationships with others more difficult by interfering with your contact with others, or saying bad things about you to them.
  •  Your partner has no room for your own complaints or grievances, or even becomes distant or punishing if you bring them up. You start to avoid bringing things of concern to his attention because of your concern about how he or she will react if you do.
  • You feel fear that your partner will hurt you physically or humiliate you sexually if you do or say things he or she doesn’t like.
  • You are spending a lot of your time trying to figure out what is going on with your partner and how you can do something different to make it better.
  • You are winding up feeling lonely, hungry for love and affection. You end up working hard to keep the little attention your partner does give you. Your focus has shifted towards what is going to make your partner seem content enough to reward you with some affection and attention.

The first step towards figuring out how to handle your relationship is knowing what kind of relationship you are in. If you recognized your own situation in many or most of the bullets listed above, you are probably in a destructive relationship. Yes, there is help. But beware: the kinds of solutions you will read about for healthy relationships that are sadly unsatisfying or that are in conflict will not work for the destructive relationship. Your struggles are very different, and they demand their own solutions.

Look for our next post on figuring out what are the main types of destructiveness in relationships.

Written on September 6th, 2011 , Should I Stay? Or Should I Go?, Uncategorized

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JAC Patrissi's Blog – Growing A New Heart

JAC Patrissi is a Communications Specialist who uses writing, performance art, training and collaborative facilitation in order to support healing for women who are questioning the health of their relationships or who are healing from destructive relationships. This is her blog.