They are a common circumstance when living together, but in a relationship crisis it is easy not to know which way to go. What does it take to overcome them?
The sociological changes produced in recent decades, mainly with the entry of women into the world of work and the autonomy that this entails, have allowed most couples not to be based on a relationship of economic dependence between women and men. rather, they are established on the basis of what we might call an “emotional contract.” In other words, emotional and sentimental life currently has much more weight in the life of the couple than economic factors. Therefore, coexistence is no longer based so much on an “I need you” as on an “I love you.”
This inestimable progress means, on the other hand, that in relationships more priority is given to psychological development and the personal and growth needs of each of the members and of the couple as such.
Likewise, the couple is no longer an idealized entity. Rather, it is a style of coexistence that has been freely chosen and for which it is necessary to work continuously to maintain it.
WHEN DO COUPLE CRISES APPEAR
Faced with this gain in freedom, it can be said that couples’ lives are much more fragile and are subject to many more crises than before.
A couple crisis is a state of conflict between the parties that occurs when the relationship ceases to provide one or both members of the couple with the state of security, affection, sexual pleasure, etc. who had allowed that relationship to begin and continue up to that point.
In this sense, one can speak of the crises of the couple in the plural not in the singular – since there are many reasons that can put the relationship to the test.
Let’s see them roughly:
- On the first years. At the beginning, the discussions are usually caused by issues of adaptation in the coexistence, by the clash between different lifestyles and customs, by the need to maintain a personal space, by discovering facets of the other person that were overlooked in the infatuation stage, etc. These small crises are often easily overcome with patience, dialogue, and trust.
- During the intermediate stage. When a certain age reaches a certain age and the children get older, people usually take stock of their lives. If in this review it is considered that the couple has become a routine, something that has frustrated a life project without contributing much in return or, also, if there is a personal crisis due to one’s own age, a conflict may arise difficult to solve. Perhaps a series of discomforts that were kept hidden for a long time, individually or as a couple, have come to light and that may close all avenues of solution.
- In old age. Although these crises tend to be less frequent, many people, when they get older, with the departure of their children from home or with retirement, find a void in the life of a couple. This causes a growing distancing that can become an unbridgeable chasm if the issue is not faced with all sincerity with oneself and with the partner, so that it can be valued – as it happened in the previous stage – if it is about a personal crisis or a problem that was latent and now surfaces.
But it is not only time that makes a dent in the life of a couple, there are many reasons that can cause a crisis. Among the most frequent and serious are the following:
- The appearance of a third person. It is one of the classic reasons in couple conflicts and, although it does not always cause a breakup, it generates a serious crisis of trust.
- Loss of interest. If the attention towards the other person is not kept alive and rather a lack of interest towards them is produced –which does not mean that they do not love them– the relationship becomes increasingly unbearable and the coexistence loses its meaning.
- Love also ends. Unlike the previous situation, in this case it is love that fades over time, without necessarily having to do with the appearance of a third person. It is not so much that the idealized love of the early days is extinguished, but that the affection and affection that are generated over the years are lacking and that act as the mortar that solidifies the relationship. If this is lacking, and sometimes unavoidable, it is very difficult for the relationship to sustain itself.
- Great personal differences. Just as relationships evolve, so do people. If this evolution is not harmonious, so that there are fewer and fewer points in common, both in terms of interests and values, priorities, ways of seeing life, etc., there is a progressive estrangement between the two that ends up making life incompatible in common.
- Unfulfilled expectations. Many times, couples start their journey thinking that the other will change those aspects that displease the most, that life together will iron out the differences and allow them to satisfy these and other expectations. When this is not fulfilled, and it should be noted that if the expectations or expected changes are very great, they will hardly be achieved, frustration appears and, with it, repeated reproaches and discussions.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR PARTNER IS GOING THROUGH A CRISIS? WARNING SIGNS
As we can see, in the course of a relationship it is almost inevitable that conflicts will appear that can lead to more or less serious crises. Although we have already pointed out some of the most frequent causes that can lead to a crisis, that does not mean that you cannot be aware that things are not going well.
In this way it will be possible to correct certain situations and conflicts before they seem insoluble.
Taking into account that three of the most important pillars in a relationship are love, communication and trust, that one of them begins to resent it will be a red flag to which it is convenient to pay attention.
GIVE AND RECEIVE AFFECTION
The affection in the couple is fundamental but, in many cases, they tend to be more concerned with receiving than with giving, without taking into account that it is a reciprocal exchange.
For this reason, if one of the members of the couple feels neglected, they easily stop being interested in the other, which encourages a vicious cycle of criticism and reproach.
In a situation like this, it is preferable to try to convey that feeling in a constructive way and without making judgments, trying to make the other aware of how one feels, of the differences in treatment that one thinks they observe, etc.
TAKE CARE OF COMMUNICATION
It is another basic factor, since it is the channel through which the members of the couple share their experiences.
This means that it is necessary to learn to communicate taking into account the way of being of each one and respecting it for example, an introvert cannot be asked to constantly express his feelings.
It is convenient to dialogue in a calm and relaxed way – avoiding exasperation, irony and lack of respect -, knowing how to empathize and put yourself in the place of the other, tolerate differences of opinion, be flexible, etc.
If all this begins to fail, if silence and bad answers are the most remarkable note, you have to try to find out between the two what is happening to be able to remedy it.
The third red flag is mistrust in the other. Whoever perceives signs of mistrust, who is surprised by checking the partner’s mobile phone or email or, conversely, has the feeling that it is being checked, it is because the shadow of suspicion and doubt has crept in between the two.
Before proceeding with such inquiries, it is advisable to be brave and raise such doubts to try to stir them up.
WHEN IS COUPLES THERAPY USEFUL?
Couples therapy aims to show the protagonists the points where they are stuck and that, often, they are not what they thought were their real problems.
It is a good solution when there is the will to push the couple forward and the honesty to talk about what is happening. The therapist will make his comments and indications but ultimately it is the couple who must carry out the improvement work.
If you opt for professional help, it is advisable to do it soon, when there is still hope and you really want to fix the disagreements, since too many times that help is used as a last resort, when it is implicitly recognized that nothing can be fixed.
6 SUBJECTS FOR A COUPLE
Certain skills help to avoid or overcome more than one crisis. They can be summarized in a series of learnings, which the couple can acquire in therapy, but also by themselves:
- Communicate. Good communication involves much more than talking: it means knowing how to listen to the other sincerely and know how to express oneself appropriately, especially when it comes to feelings.
- Share. You have to take into account the opinions and interests of both, take an interest in the other: know how they feel, what they want, etc., as well as knowing how to ask for what they like or need without fear of feeling vulnerable because of it. Learn, also, to share the economy looking for the most respectful and acceptable formula for the interest of both.
- Relate. A relationship takes a long time. It will therefore be necessary to dedicate an important part of personal time to be with the couple, sharing interests and hobbies. And learn to be together in difficult times by providing support and company.
- Be responsible for yourself. We must avoid generating dependency relationships in which everything that happens to us has to do with the other. Relationships are not to solve anyone’s life: one thing is to give support and advice, and another to try to guide the life of the other or be guided by him.
- Surprise. Daily life easily leads to monotony and repetition. You have to be able to motivate yourself with details, ideas and new projects in order not to give in to boredom.
- Relating sexually. Sexuality occupies a fundamental place in the life of the couple, but sexual desire is different for each one and evolves over time. It is necessary to learn to live sexuality as a couple by being sincere in everything that concerns this issue.
IF THE CRISIS IS NOT RESOLVED: HOW TO FACE THE BREAK
Every crisis is doomed to a denouement. In the couple, this end will be given by a reconciliation or a separation.
The fact that a crisis is reached does not inexorably mean that the couple is going to break up. Crises can be overcome and the couple can emerge from them strengthened in their feelings and mutual trust.
Unless it is due to a serious reason, the rupture does not occur until after a series of crises that have not been satisfactorily resolved. With this, the illusion to try again fades, since one has the impression of living in a permanent conflict.
The rupture usually depends more on the reasons that have caused the crisis and the way in which it is faced than on the crisis itself.
If this point is reached, the rupture must be faced with courage, considering the discomfort and wear and tear that a coexistence entailed by successive crises, reconciliations and other added problems.
Sometimes this dynamic is fostered by keeping the couple in front of the children, so that they do not suffer the divorce of their parents, etc. Deep down, although there is something sincere in this interest in protecting children, it is often an alibi since neither of them dares to take the step of proposing a definitive separation out of fear of the future.
When a couple has decided to separate, they have to avoid dramatizing this situation, taking into account that:
- The couple has broken up but each has their own personal and family life ahead of them. In the case of having children, we do not separate from them but we continue to be their parents.
- Although the new stage is hard and uncertain, it will surely be richer and freer on a personal level, because the problems and troubles that the old life as a couple originated will be left behind.
- It is advisable to turn to family, friends and, if necessary, professional help in order to obtain the necessary help to overcome this process.
- It is very normal to go through a phase of sadness. It is part of the grief necessary to assume and accept the loss.
- You have to be lucid with yourself and analyze where you have failed so as not to repeat those mistakes in the future.