Our earliest patterns of relating, feeling and expressing (or not) anger will all impact on our future relationships. In other words, earliest object relationships will be reactivated in the interaction between partners, as well as in their joint relationships to the environment they live in.(i)
Anger, rage and blame may find their genuine roots way back within our family of origin, school days and former partners; unresolved rage frequently re-surfacing within marriage. Whatever our history there are several ways in which we may lash out at our partner in the form of personal attack or constantly blaming them rather than think through where the anger really originates. For those who may have experienced physical abuse during childhood, a hurtful response to an argument may be to physically attack their partner, especially if this has been their experience of parental role modelling in the past. If the partner has internalised the role of 'victim' in the past, whether through family dynamics or other, then the pattern may continue into later relationships and thus a vicious cycle is perpetuated. It is therefore vital that the therapist has considerable knowledge of psychodynamic patterns in order to be able to offer total empathy to both partners.
The way in which we communicate will also impact on our relationships. It's easy to 'attack' by virtue of blaming and criticising 'the other' for their actions and behaviour rather than calmly discussing how their behaviour has made us feel.
Early relationships, especially in terms of sibling rivalry or competitive nature in regard to parental influences may result in one partner's insistence on winning an argument regardless of whether or not they are right. In this instance, the 'winner' becomes the perpetrator and the 'loser', the victim.
When a row escalates to the point of no return, where the pain caused is simply too much, the screaming rows resulting in emotional breakdown of one or other, both partners will inevitably experience deep pain, often with strong feelings of guilt and shame. Genuine communication becomes impossible sometimes to the point where further difficulties develop, due to continually going over the same issues without fully 'hearing' or listening to 'the other'. Often the result is that feelings are pushed further and further down with no real move forward in terms of healing the relationship.
(i) Ruszczynski, Stanley. Psychotherapy with couples: Theory and Practice at the Tavistock Institute of Marital Studies (TIMS).
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About Elise Wardle
Elise Wardle MA is an accredited counsellor, psychotherapist and supervisor in private practice. Integrative and Jungian in orientation, her specialisation is in depth psychology with a focus on dreams and the journey within, or for those who need intervention therapy, brief focused counselling is also frequently offered to clients.