Feeling Stuck or Not "In Love" in Your Romantic Relationship? Or, Having Frequent Arguments?

May 15th, 2024

Are you feeling stifled in your relationship? Not sure if you are in love anymore? Having an increased frequency of arguments?

You might be in the stage of your relationship where you're negotiating your needs with your partner's needs. 

Couples Experts Ellyn Bader and her partner Peter saw over 50, 000 couples in the United States and created the Developmental Model of Couple Relationships: A Positive Outlook on How Relationships Develop.

In the beginning of the relationship it's common to feel like there's so much similarity between us, almost like we grew up together. The lovely bonding hormones oxytocin and testosterone are coursing through our bodies and we are seeing our partner through these chemically-indused rose colored glasses.

After about 18 months (or earlier in the Lower Mainland where people tend to move in sooner due to financial needs) stress increases and hormones drop and we start to see the differences between us and our partner. Seeing those differences creates anxiety in us.

Some people break up at this point. They start over. They try to find somebody else who's more similar. And inevitably they get to the stage where they see differences and get anxious again.

Couples who stick with it tend to try to solve the problem of anxiety about differences in one of two ways:

(1) They have frequent, escalating, hostile arguments where one or both are trying to change the other to be the same as them. Or,

(2) They seemingly never fight because one or both of the members are hiding or denying the difference. And those relationships there may be a feeling of loss of in-loveness or symptoms of anxiety or depression/stuckness because one or both people are sacrificing their needs too much.

For example: Roxy wants to go out every Friday night with her friends but stops doing it because it feels like there's pressure to stay in with her partner on Friday nights. Roxy feels guilty to go out and come back to an unhappy partner and so she stifles her needs and ends up feeling depressed and then ghosting the relationship. Or, she may just keep going out all the time and her partner Matt may keep bringing up the issue and creating the same angry hostile fight on a weekly basis.

This stage of negotiating our differing needs cannot be avoided or gone around in relationship. As hard as it is, it must be gone through! 

In some relationships this stage takes 10 weeks and in others it takes 10 years.

Couples therapy that employs this theory helps coach couples through this stage to shorten it up. 

The counsellor will help you understand that sacrificing your own needs is not how you create a healthy relationship and neither is ignoring your partner's needs.

Finding a healthy compromise that feels good to both creates satisfying relationships, individual health and good sex lives.

This process looks something like this:

1. Understanding what I need and want

2. Holding on to what I need and want when my partner is in the room or whilst having contact with my partner

3. Presenting what I need and want in a way that my partner can hear and not be defensive

4. Getting curious about what my partner needs and wants

For example: I'm upstairs and I feel like playing the piano. As I come downstairs to play my husband and kids walk into the house. I have an impulse to collapse my needs and immediately start supper for them. But I know that if I start supper and collapse my own needs I will be resentful later on towards them. Which is my own stuff, not theirs. So instead I say, "hi I was about to sit down to the piano and then I'll start dinner in about 45 minutes. How does that work for you guys?"

Which parts of this process are you good at? Which parts are unpracticed?

Some people are really good at reading the other person but don't understand their own needs. Others are good at knowing their own needs but collapse them in the face of others. Others yet are good at knowing their own needs and have a hard time getting curious about their partner's needs.

These are all hard skills and I'm happy to help support you to learn them to create satisfying a relationship.

Come on in and book an appointment by emailing NatalieHansenCounseling@gmail.com or feel free to go on to my website and book an appointment.

When you can get these steps going you will find your relationship to have a lot more energy to it and have decreased feelings of stuckness or stifled-ness. Plus you'll have way less conflict. Couples suffer through an average of 6 years (e.g., Gottman research) before reaching out for help. Do yourselves a favor and get some support. Relationships are hard and it's normal to need a relationship coach just like we need a baseball coach to sustain a team working well for the long-term.

Warmly,

Natalie (604) 816-6532

Natalie Hansen
M.A., RCC
Natalie Hansen Counselling
490-555 6th Street, New Westminster, V3L 5H1

Disclaimer: CounsellingBC does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any informational content contained within any of the individual blogs on this website. All counsellors, psychologists and other professionals are asked to ensure that their sources and their information are reliable. Ultimately any questions or concerns about the content contained in their blog can be addressed to them individually via the link to their listing.