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Frustrated and stressed couples - the hamster wheel of anger and resentment

Stress, pressure and roles

Where did it go wrong? Well, it can be for many different reasons, but there are usually common themes. We live in a fast changing world with changing pressures that can test even the most resilient of relationships. These ever-changing circumstances and pressures can lead to stress in the relationship. Changes can come from both within the relationship and outside the relationship, such as new a job, children, illness, differing expectations, moving house, fertility problems, jealously, infidelity, money worries and so many more.

Not only can the changes be difficult to navigate, but you may begin to find things now matter where they didn't matter before. Arguments can blow up out of nowhere, and pressure and prolonged stress can make details matter. Too much pressure can lead to prolonged stress, change how we view the world and affect how we behave in relationships. Stress is an experienced biological and psychological response and can occur when we feel we do not have the resources to deal with the situation or environment we find ourselves in.

Stress can change the roles we take up within the relationship and put us into playing the victim, villain or rescuer, and sometimes a good measure of all. These roles can be damaging to a relationship and difficult to get out of. When we take a broad overview of these roles you get a further understanding of why they are damaging and toxic to a relationship. Victims can’t give attention to the relationship, as they feel too helpless to solve problems and find it difficult to take responsibility for any negative consequences. Villains however can’t focus on the relationship, as they are trying to exert power whilst being too busy blaming. Rescuers can’t focus on the relationship as they are too busy strategising with short term repairs whilst fostering resentment underneath.

If you can identify the roles you find yourself in within the relationship, you can take action to change these roles to more constructive ones, which will enable you to work through the challenges within your relationship. If you identify with the victim, acknowledge your strengths and allow yourself to try not to beat yourself up if it goes wrong. If you have a sense of being in the villain role, change accusatory, sweeping statements by expressing your own feelings without highlighting the other's faults. Rescuing behaviour can be lessened by not taking responsibility to solve all problems and learning to say no; try and rein in the sense of needing to fix.

When the heat is turned up for our stress, we can find we are arguing more, and we have a sense of being back on the hamster wheel of anger and resentment. It has a real groundhog day feel about it. Once on the wheel of anger, relationships can suffer from diminished closeness and intimacy, a lack of confidence for future togetherness,  experiencing explosive hot anger or having an atmosphere of icy, restrained anger.

Often a person will question whether they can stay in the relationship, and feel like the relationship is doomed. One partner may have a need to confront and tackle the arguments head-on, and will want or insist for the partner to do the same, even if there is no benefit in doing so. The other may wish to withdraw both physically and emotionally to escape the situation, so the problems never get addressed.

Both partners will need to learn to do things differently if they are to make more positive changes in the relationship. If you are the partner that wants to confront and have it out, consider whether tackling and confronting is really going to be helpful to the problem at this time. Would it be better to discuss the problem when the feelings have dissipated, when things are calmer? Do you find yourself withdrawing from conflict and ignoring the problems raised? It can be very useful if you can acknowledge the feelings you are experiencing, and experiment with yourself the challenge of staying with your own uncomfortable feelings without fleeing from them.

Undiscovered and lost treasure

When things have been going wrong for so long it is hard to see any value in the relationship we have with our partner. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what we fell in love with them for, or how we became attracted to them. We may have lost the feelings we had for them, or want them to change to be something else. Anger and resentment leave the relationship estranged from the more positive and nourishing feelings of love, fun, joy, intimacy and happiness.

Review what makes you both happy and take action to make more time to do the things that make you both feel good as a couple and as individuals. Invest in creating options, and take action which enables you both to feel less burdened and more energised. When problems do then arise, you'll feel more able to effectively deal with them.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Nicola Perry Counsellor, Supervisor & Mindfulness Teacher.

I am Nicola Perry and am a qualified counsellor & supervisor. I work with both individuals and couples in the UK and Europe.
I have under gone further training and CPD in couples work.… Read more

Written by Nicola Perry Counsellor, Supervisor & Mindfulness Teacher.

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