Sonya Thomas lcsw

The hostile angry couple . . . Part 1

I am reading a series of posts from the brilliant couples therapist, Ellyn Bader, on hostile angry couples.  Below, I will share the highlights, which include the persistent problems that hostile angry couples predictably exhibit.  Do you recognize yourself or your relationship in any of the below dynamics?

  • A competitiveness with complaints and escalation of hostility, either overtly or passive aggressively.
  • High levels of sensitivity to confrontation, and if confronted, they will often attack or collapse into a very deep victim position.
  • They ignore therapeutic interventions and keep on fighting.
  • Continually retriggering trauma in each other.
  • They don’t know how to repair relationship ruptures. Instead they just shut down, lick their own wounds, wait for time to pass, and finally begin to talk to each other again. Sadly, that leaves them primed to easily retrigger the same pain again.
  • One partner demands intimacy. They will want it, they’ll insist on it, they’ll yell for it, but they don’t have the emotional capacity to support the intimacy they crave.
  • Fear and avoidant of vulnerability.

One main reason for the these hostile angry dynamics is that partners hold onto faulty belief systems that stifle relationship growth. Here are a few.  Recognize any?

  • “If you really loved me, you would read my mind, know what I want, and give it to me in a timely way. I shouldn’t have to ask.”
  • “If you really loved me, you’d make me the center of your universe and give up old significant relationships for me.  Friends and family should always come after me.”
  • “If you really loved me, you would want closeness and intimacy when I want closeness and intimacy. You would want it when and how I want it.”
  • “If you really loved me, you would change your personality to please me.”
  • “I’ve given and given all I can. Now it’s my partner’s turn. I can sit back, do nothing, and wait.”

In fact, what is really be requested is DEVELOPMENTAL in nature, not behavioral.  This means that shifting hostile angry patterns is not easy or effortless.   It requires a tenacious intention from each partner to developmentally grow up.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series.