Do you feel lost, angry or frustrated by your relationship? Once you know what the problem is, you’re halfway there it. From hundreds of couple counselling sessions, I’ve identified many unhelpful couple patterns, some of which I have listed below.

10 Negative Couple Patterns to Avoid
© 2018 Phoebe Hutchison

Resentment Couple: One of the most common patterns I see is the couple who believe that arguing is bad, and therefore keep everything ‘inside’, and do not discuss things. Resentment builds from unmet: needs, wants and unexpressed anger.

Disconnected Couple: Both partners lead very different lives, with different circles of friends, and hobbies. They are highly independent, avoid time with each other, which can lead to emotional unfulfillment, infidelity or depression.

Codependent Couple: One person has an addiction (alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex addiction) or an illness (including PTSD), and the other partner fixates on the addicted or ill partner, causing disregard of self, and obsessional and negative thinking, which may lead to depression or anxiety.

Spontaneous versus Structured Couple. Both parties seem frequently frustrated by the other person's opposite habits. For example. The spontaneous person may suggest a camping trip on short notice, causing complete overwhelm in their highly structured partner, who is not comfortable with a spontaneous outing.

Bedroom Issues Couple. One partner could be avoiding sexual activity, while the other partner may nag, manipulate, or feel rejected. Issues could result from: resentment, emotional disconnection, low libido, depression, anxiety, grief, sexual addiction or past sexual abuse.

Cat and dog Couple. This couple fight a lot; they exhibit high resentment, disrespect, and contempt for each other. This couple are likely to be emotionally abusive, and in my experience, I’ve found they have a higher chance of physical abuse, as well as complex issues around control, jealousy, and anger.

Triangulation Couple: One partner spends more time with their children, family of origin, or friends, than with their partner, which may leave the other partner feeling excluded. In some cases, one parent may negatively discuss the parents relationship with the child, adding to the disconnect between the parents, as it becomes “two against one”.

The Grief Couple: One partner may have lost a loved one by death and as part of the grief process, they may have become angry at their spouse, or withdrawn and depressed. In many cases, this patterns goes unnoticed for a couple of years, until the couple seek counselling.

The Competitive Couple: Everything seems to be a competition. He works longer hours; she spent more time with the children. There is low sense of team, low emotional intimacy, and often other issues such as disconnection, resentment, or addiction may be at the core.

No Strategy Couple. One or both partners did not have a great “Relationship example” growing up. We learn behaviours from our parents, often unconsciously. Many couples don’t know how to: manage conflict, be assertive, communicate well, and enjoy their relationships. They simply didn’t inherit the tools. Don’t worry, I’ll teach you them fast, and I’ll make it easy!


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