Vallarta Tribune, Feb 12-18, 2006, issue # 462, pg 20

 So many things impact relationships causing increased stress and mixed feelings, resentments, anger, sadness, and fear of what could happen if things don’t get better. Couples complain that “no matter what I do it’s never enough” stating that he/she is “never satisfied.” Our expectations of our partner can often be unrealistically high and in other cases he/she may not be fulfilling their role in the relationship. Couples become frustrated and tired of “mas de lo mismo” (more of the same) and want to stop the vicious cycle but don’t know how.

Financial pressures can take any relationship to a new level of stress that seems to impact everything else, especially if you were previously accustomed to a higher standard of living. Many aspects of life may need to change. For example, if you used to go out to eat, go to the movies, buy new clothes, afford private schooling for your children, live in a nicer neighborhood, drive a new car, etc. A great deal of resentments can develop if one partner is to blame (or is blamed by the other) resulting from a job loss, excessive and careless spending, or possibly addiction.

Couples complain frequently about not “being listened to” or “not being understood.” Poor communication skills are a major culprit in destroying relationships since it is the vehicle to intimacy. Difficulty expressing what you feel and what you need is very common. Communication is not necessarily something you learned growing up. Because of this, some people have come to expect others to “read their mind” to second guess their needs, to be able to determine what they are thinking or feeling without it actually being said.

Another source of contention revolves around parenting and disciplining children. Parenting styles can differ greatly which is not necessarily a problem and can in fact compliment the other. One may be more patient, more interactive, more playful, while the other may be stricter, more able to provide structure, more helpful with homework or extracurricular activities. The problem arises when each of you do not agree on the other’s style, or believe the other’s style is detrimental or damaging. Disagreeing on when and how to discipline can create problems where the children succeed at splitting one parent against the other. It is especially bad if the parents argue about this in front of the children. How many times have you heard “Mom lets me do it” or “Dad said I could go?”

Of course another major complaint of couples is infidelity; cheating, flings, one night stands, long-term affairs. This can be devastating to the integrity of the couple, causing tremendous ripple effects for both.  Although reactions vary, the one who has been cheated on feels completely betrayed, angry, sad, and wonders why.  The one who cheated usually feels defensive providing reasons why they were unhappy in their relationship. Although infidelity can be painful and devastating, it does not necessarily need to be the end of the relationship, and in fact, can be very sobering, “waking the couple up” to what has really been going on. They are then able to more honestly evaluate what needs to change and be improved upon.

In addition to the stresses discussed above, we must also consider the impact of domestic violence and addiction. Don’t be intimidated by the term “domestic violence” it basically refers to relationships where one partner gains power and control over the other by various means of abuse such as verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical. The abuse can be very subtle and unsuspected by friends and family or blatantly obvious. Either way, the partner stays in the relationship out of fear of consequences that may sometimes be life threatening.

Addiction is another destroyer of relationships that may not always be blatantly obvious either. Addiction has many faces depending on the severity and progression of the disease, the drugs of choice, and the conflicts and hardships they cause the individual and the couple. Many addicts are high functioning enough to never suffer grave consequences while others have their life and the lives of their loved ones turned upside down.

Not all relationships are healthy enough to survive, nor should they. Many of us get into relationships for all of the wrong reasons and then feel stuck. Some stay for financial dependence or for the “children’s sake,” but whatever the reason, you need to clarify why you want to stay or leave, carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages, as well as the consequences.

If you are wondering what to do, you may be interested in attending group therapy focused on relationships. Individual and couples therapy is also extremely effective. Life is too short, so live it to your fullest!

Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN,LCSW,CADC