We hurt the ones we love.
It is inevitable that proximity to our loved ones can create flashpoints of anger and conflict. But the pandemic only intensified these daily pressures. We had to homeschool our kids, we could not see our friends, and there was nowhere to go to escape the daily grind.
As things start to open up, we expect all the anger and conflict to just melt like thawing snow. But it takes a little more work than that.
To truly get beyond anger and conflict, we need a quick reminder of the essential ingredients to a healthy, balanced relationship. I am sure you have your own ideas about what those might be, but here are some that most therapists would agree are essential -
1. Trust. I have already explored trust in detail, so if you need to read more about this, have a look at my previous article.
2. Assertiveness. In this article I set out how to identify assertiveness, and when a lack of assertiveness becomes a problem in a relationship.
3. Vulnerability. In this article I look at how shame can hold us back when we try to become vulnerable in a relationship.
4. The absence of abuse (in all its forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial). In another article I set out how to identify abuse, and what to do about it.
The ideal relationship involves what is called secure attachment. Basically this is a healthy balance of independence and intimacy. If you are anxiously attached, you tend to crave intimacy at the expense of independence. For example, you text or call too much, and you demand too much from the people in your relationships. If you tend to be avoidant in your relationships, you favor independence at the expense of intimacy. For example, you might disclose less, or make less contact with people in your life.
If you find yourself slipping into the avoidant attachment style, try to identify how you might 'move towards' the people you care about. Can you share more, or make contact more often? In contrast, if you tend to be anxiously attached to others, is there a way you can decrease the frequency or intensity of your interactions?
A balancing act
As with all therapy, it is a matter of striking a balance, so you can achieve more of a secure attachment style (respecting independence and intimacy). To do this, are there any role models in your life who seem to demonstrate a more healthy, balanced, and secure attachment style in their relationships? Even if you know of no one, you can look to your therapist as a starting point.
So what do you think?
Does any of this resonate with you? Get in touch by sending me a message so you can explore this further. I would love to hear from you.
Chris Warren-Dickins LLB MA LPC
Psychotherapist (Licensed Professional Counselor)