Written By: Dr. Martin Rovers, Psychologist with Capital Choice Counselling Group
How often has a couple fight included the words: “But, you always do that! Why are you so mean?”
After 25 years of doing couple counselling and marriage therapy, I know that the above line is most often not true. Even though it feels like your partner might be mean, and are saying things that hurt, for the most part, partners are just wounded, just like you are. In the heat of the moment, we each can often regress to having temper tantrums, all the while knowing that we are being unreasonable. Yet, we are hurt; our love relationship feels threatened; and we react with all the powers within our defense system to neutralize that threat to our relational security. The fight is on!
However, the truth is that underneath that anger we each have a wound or two. (See the book: Healing the Wounds in Couple Relationships on the bottom of the home page). Wounds can be current insecurities about our relationship or unfinished business from our childhood days when we did not know how to regulate attachment threats, like when mom or dad were not emotionally available to provide us with a sense of security, or dad and mom were too busy, or inconsistently available (See Chapter 2). As a result, in attachment theory terms, we regulated these wounds by developing a defense, such as the anger you might see in you or your partner. These defenses developed in childhood can guide us today still, so that when our partner threatens the relationship with accusations or withdrawal, we defend ourselves and the marriage relationship with fight, or at times, flight. When we look closely, however, the observable fact is that our partners are fighting over their security in the couple relationship. When we learn to see and hear my partner’s fight words in a more objective and attachment related manner, we can begin to see that they are not mean, but just “fighting for the love” they want and need. To help both partners see this fight more objectively, couples therapy is often a wise idea as a marriage counsellor can help both partners see their own contribution to the couple problem, and how each might want to change.
Wounds, and the defenses we build are not our fault, as they are given to us by life’s circumstances, but wounds, and how we learn to heal them, are your responsibility now that you am older and in a love relationship. You can continue being mean or you can become more mindful and loving, and name, claim, and tame your own wounds as well as become thoughtful of your partner’s defenses, wounds, and needs. In our ‘couple bubble’ , we need to learn to know and care for our own and our partner’s wounds.
Martin Rovers is a psychologist with Capital Choice Counselling Group, and author of the book: Healing the Wounds in Couple Relationships, found on the home page of this website.