You can’t find a relationship without conflict. But when arguments start occurring frequently, then it may damage the very core of your relationship …permanently. Although there may still be love deep inside, but your relationship may experience a brutal death.
Many intimate partners erroneously believe that their love will always triumph no matter how many negative interactions they may have at the moment. They assume that, whatever harmful damage they may do while battling, they will always be able to find their way back to the love they knew.
Sadly, for most lovers, that is not the way it happens.
If their angry interactions increase in intensity, frequency, and duration, they may be unknowingly risking their relationship’s capability to regenerate.
All intimate partners, no matter how deeply they are committed to harmony, are capable of saying mean-spirited, harmful things to each other when threatened or frustrated. Also, many negative interactions recur because they are not adequately resolved. Those, in particular, leave emotional entrails behind that combine with the current upset. The succeeding arguments often emerge with renewed vigor and more damage. Even if a couple is superb at reconciliation, too many of these painful conflicts can ultimately destroy even the most devoted of lovers.
In my forty-plus years of working with the partners in committed relationships, I have witnessed literally thousands of disruptive and damaging arguments. Even those who still care deeply for one another can lash out in astonishingly hateful ways, seemingly absolutely unaware of the potentially un-healable damage they may be doing to their relationship.
Because I am also with them when they are not arguing, I know that their love is still intact underneath their anger. Yet, I know that affection will disappear when the next disagreement emerges. Their current bond of loving attachment will be sadly replaced by animosity and adversity.
Love that still exists underneath enemy fire can only hold for some period of time. The more time any couple spends in embattlement, the harder it will be for them to find their way back to the love they once knew and still take for granted.
Constant negative interactions take their toll on all relationships. A loving partnership that was once heavily weighted in the direction of harmony will eventually become one that is easier to wound and harder to heal.
I can tell how far a couple has ventured into this potentially irreversible heartbreak by stopping them in the process of an argument and then asking them, at that moment, to assess the level of love they feel towards each other.
At first, many cannot even get in touch with those underlying attachments. They cannot calm down enough to even think or feel anything else. I tell them that their relationship depends on their knowing that love is still there, even in the midst of their current animosity.
The amount of difficulty the couple has in letting go of their adversarial interaction when I give them that task, provides the information I need to assess how much trouble they are in and what they have to do to heal.
Lasting and meaningful love is like a symbolic child between romantic partners. It is a representation of the innocence and resilience that exists in every new love relationship.
When intimate partners continuously and irresponsibly hurt one another, it is the same as sacrificing that “emotional child” in order to preserve self over the other. Enough unconscious battering will ultimately destroy the chances of that initial, seemingly guaranteed healing to remain viable.
Because of this looming danger, it is crucially important that both partners realize that they are risking that resiliency with every harsh word and gesture expressed. They must understand that any love, no matter how beautiful, will be unable to survive the consistent and continuous undermining that embattlement creates.
To help couples accurately assess how close they are to losing their capacity to regenerate, I have developed the following test. I ask both partners to take the test and then to compare answers. That helps them to see if they are on the same page.