Can a relationship go from being a happy and fulfilling one to an empty and passionless relationship overnight? Or are there levels of disconnection that couples go through before they end up feeling unfulfilled and unhappy with each other? Some couples wonder how they went from being madly in love with one another to wanting to let go of the relationship they once cherished so dearly. When the tiniest little incidents can create huge arguments – what went wrong in the relationship and how do couples even get to that stage?
Let’s discuss the four stressors that start to stress a relationship, and how not dealing with them directly will damage and in some cases destroy or kill the relationship.
1. Resistance. The first stressor is when your partner says or does something that ticks you off the wrong way but you choose not to say anything to them about it. You may think at the time that it is not that big of a deal or that it would be inappropriate to say anything, so you choose you keep it to yourself. However, what happens if you don’t speak the unspoken and you don’t speak that resistance is that the irritation becomes deeper. What irritated you in the first place may not even necessarily be about your partner, but choosing not to say anything right then and there, you are allowing the feeling of resistance to lead to feelings of resentment.
2. Resentment. This is the next level of stressors couples end up in when they choose not to speak the unspoken. In this phase, you start to think things like, “Why does he always have to do that?” or “Why is he always late?” But you still don’t necessarily say anything on this stage either. You begin to feel a tension whenever you are around your partner, though you may not know where that came from. And when you don’t say anything at this stage – the feelings of resentment will lead you to start rejecting your partner.
3. Rejection. This phase is when couples start overreacting to something small and making it into a bigger deal than it is. When we overreact, we are not reacting to the moment, we are reacting to the fact that it happened again in our minds. When you begin to reject your partner or being overly harsh and he doesn’t understand why you are doing that, they then tend to reject you back and it becomes a vicious cycle. When you both are still unable to hash things out at this point, then you will move to the next phase of repressing your needs and expectations of one another.
4. Repressing. This is when you get so tired of rejecting or being harsh with one another and you begin to surrender. You begin to feel and think that things will simply not get any better. You no longer have the energy to argue. This is when you start lowering the expectations you have of the relationship and you start distracting yourself with work, shopping, your children or other things. What happens to the relationship is that it becomes dead. Your relationship turns into a decent friendship rather than a fulfilling romantic relationship.
If we can be aware of which stage we are in when there are conflicts in the relationship whether that is during resistance or resentment, you can then begin to speak the unspoken and not have to get to level three or four. Break the pattern and you can save your marriage.