Unhealthy Relationship Patterns

How they affect your love and sex life?*

We would all like to believe that romantic relationships and sexuality come naturally to couples who are mature and sane. Of course, we tolerate certain conflicts & bumps that are inevitable. Although, how do we get through a conflict that just doesn’t seem to be resolved? What are the elements that help people move forward in their relationship that we all will need to face in our couple?

Effective communication techniques won’t help!

The lack of communication is rarely the cause of the problems in couples who face emotional gridlock. Relationships, which are based on passion, romantic love and attachment, are generally short lived. The key ingredient in a long-term relationship is having a collaborative alliance, which implies integrity and loyalty. Loyalty in the face of adversity needs to be dealt with a good emotional balance from the members of the couple.

This balance is found through knowing ourselves, being assertive, our capacity to self-sooth, offer grounded responses and have meaningful endurance when it comes to tolerating our insecurities & anxieties.

Different types of alliances

To maintain a collaborative alliance, you need to build your 4 points of balance. Without these points, couples form other types of alliances, which are detrimental to personal growth and happiness in the couple.

     We can have a collusive alliance between members of a couple who have decided to avoid direct conflict by ignoring them. These couples will present themselves in therapy with sexual difficulties, but will say they have no other issues. They describe themselves as having good communication, but they won’t understand why they have sexual difficulties (typically with sexual desire)

     These couples are neither honest with their partner than with themselves. They haven’t developed the capacity to confront their partners nor themselves when it comes the time to do it. This lack of loyalty and of integrity kills sexual desire in the couple and since no one wants to admit their faults and short-comings, the conflict persists. The best way to describe these types of couples is that they have this implicit understanding between each other that important conflicts should be avoided at all cost because neither is capable of dealing with the possible consequences.

Couples with combative alliance do exist, as well. These people like to have conflicts and they eat it for breakfast. It is actually their way of being in a relationship with their lovers. They will fight in front of their friends without thinking of any of the repercussions. The thing with this type of alliance is that they hardly if ever confront themselves. They will constantly blame their partner, but will never look at their own insecurities that contribute to the couple’s dynamic. Their biggest fear is to admit that they were wrong in front of their spouse and put themselves in a vulnerable position. They constantly repeat to themselves: “If I admit my short-comings, hardships, anxieties; my partner will use them against me in the future!”

Other couples have no alliance what so ever. The couple’s dogma consists of personally attacking the other and defending themselves at all cost. There are no limits as to how far one can go to hurt their partner’s egos. As we like to say: “the gloves are off”. We find in these couples a high level of Normal Marital Sadism (NMS). These couple have very big fights where the threat of separation is used regularly, without ever coming to terms. We could think that these people don’t have any love or importance for each other. Things is, we can’t always judge a book by its cover. It’s actually because of the importance that they hold between each other, that they are capable of hurting one another on an emotional level. We are rarely hurt by people we don’t care about. 

A couple can have more than one alliance or lack there of. It all depends on the subject or context the couple is facing. Partners can have a combative alliance on how to raise the kids, a collusive alliance on sexual issues and no alliance on house cleaning and finances. An alliance can also be collusive one day for sex, then combative the other. In other words, alliances are fluid and interchangeable in time and between partners. One partner may actually try to have a collusive one while the other is giving a combative one.

Before reading the next chapter on how to build a collaborative alliance, take the time to recognize what type of alliances you have in your relationships and which ones do you reinforce with your own behaviour. Evaluate within which context and subjects you change your alliance. How do you react when your lover offers you a collaborative alliance? Do you take it or do you try to switch it to another one?

* Inspired by the book Intimacy and Desire from David Schnarch



Normal Marital Sadism: Learn How to Hate Your Lover (Coming soon)

Emotional Gridlock: The Underlying Issues in Couples

I don't Want Sex

What Should I Do?*

As we've discussed in the previous articles before, neither the High Desire Partner (HDP), nor the Low Desire Partner (LDP) have a better position in the dynamic of the couple. We tend to hear couples saying that they have the bad reputation in the couple and they wished that their lover would better understand them. Thing is, both parties are dealing with the same things, just in a different ways.

The LDP's Catch 22!

The LDP is stuck in a very similar outcome than the HDP, where they don't necessarily want the sex they are being offered for whatever reason, yet they don't want their partner to leave them. They know full well that if they don't give out here and there, their partner will eventually get tired of the lack of sex and leave. Since they don't want that, they offer once and a while what we call pity sex. Not only is it the worst thing to do in a relationship, where there is a discrepancy between the sexual desire of the partners, it makes the LDP feel like crap about themselves. As much as pity sex tends to get their partner's off their backs for a while, they'll come on knocking for more soon enough. This is where the LDP can't hold on to themselves and loses their integrity.

Lose Your Self-Respect and Integrity: Lose Your Sexual Desire

Now, you must be thinking what does self-respect and integrity have to do with sexual desire. Unlike what most people think, long lasting sexual desire in a committed relationship isn't entirely based on how desirable our partner is. It's also based on what we think and perceive of ourselves, which is something LDP's tend not to have in high quantity. When someone offers their body to their lover for sex without enjoying it much or even at all, they tend to think less and less of themselves. They realize that they are willing to go pretty low to avoid a break up or a conflict. This doesn't make people feel particularly desirable, which by contrast doesn't make them feel sexual desire for others.

Refusing Crappy Sex Is Offering The Possibility of Great Sex

A lot of LDP's actually have a lot of sexual desire bubbling underneath that facade of disinterest. The thing is, they don't want to do it with their partner. Sex might have been good at the beginning of the relationship, but like all sex lives it starts getting repetitive and boring after a while. It's predictable, planned (especially if you have kids) and monotone. It takes more effort each time to get turned on and we skip the passionate parts to just get down to business. Most LDP's will start to feel this before the HDP partner's but they won't say anything about it to avoid hurt feelings. Sometimes it's to avoid putting the effort into their sex lives for themselves. Some LDP's have a very wild sexual imagination, but have never really shared it with their partner out of fear of being rejected, seen as perverted, judged, etc.

Therefore, they don't get the sex they want and eventually and inevitably lose most if not all their sexual desire. Since they're in an other validated intimacy dynamic, just like their HDP counter parts, they only self-disclose what they think or know will be accepted by their spouse in bed.

Standing Up On Your Own Two Feet

So you feel you have little if no self-respect and integrity for accepting pity sex for so long. You want better sex, but don't know what or if your partner will even want what you have to offer? You are afraid to hurt their feelings and make things worst. Well you are exactly where you should be! This is the opportunity to grow up and mature and face your insecurities and doubts about yourself. Now, why would you want to do that? Well...dealing with them will actually give you your self-esteem, self-respect, integrity and feelings of being desirable back so that sexual desire feels more natural to you.

First off, stop offering and giving pity sex. Second start being more assertive in what you want in sex or find out what your sexual preferences are, if you don't know what they are. Refrain from avoiding your spouse’s sexual advances and get in the game of seduction with them. Or at least have the balls or ovaries (depending on the case) to tell them you’re not in that mood right now and offer some other type of couples activity. Try to think before you say «NO» to them and really reflect on why you want to say it. Is it just automatic? Are you avoiding your own sexual insecurities? Maybe you don't like intimacy and prefer not to deal with the uncomfortableness of being truly seen by someone?

Changing a couple's sexual dynamic is hard work and requires putting effort into it by confronting ourselves. We need to learn to self-sooth and give grounded responses. It only takes one person to transform a relationship, but it's far better when done in a collaborative alliance.

François Renaud M.A.

* Inspired by the book Intimacy and Desire from David Schnarch

DID YOU LIKE THESE READINGS, then you'll like:

Getting Yourself Together: Promotes Sexual Desire!

Overcoming The Fear of Rejection*

No one likes to be rejected, especially by someone we care deeply about and that their opinion of us sometimes exceeds our own. In the dynamic of the High Desire Partner (HDP) and Low Desire Partner (LDP) both partners feel rejected, but in different ways and for different reasons. This perpetual fear of rejection drives many couples’ dynamics and turns their alliance into an unhealthy one. Our sense of worth comes primarily from other people’s perception of us and the more important they are to us the more impact they have on us.

The LDP Controls The HDP Sense of Worth

Since the LDP controls sex in every way, shape and form, they tend to control how the HDP feels about themselves as well. Since most couples use other validated intimacy, it is hard for the HDP to feel good about themselves and have the perception that they are desirable, when they are constantly rejected. When someone’s been rejected multiple times for sex, it's not uncommon to start thinking that there might be something wrong with them. When our sense of worth is based on what other people and most importantly our spouse thinks, then rejection is hard to deal with.

The doubt that the HDP feels about themselves makes them even less attractive. We've all heard before that confidence is what makes someone attractive. Well, the rule still applies in long term committed relationships. So the HDP that has their self worth based on their spouses perception of them, rather than their own tend to be undesirable, because they act the part. When you don't feel confident; your way of being, of flirting and seducing demonstrates your lack thereof. HDP's start to want sex, not because they really truly have sexual desire for their partner, but because they want the other person to tell them their desirable. If you look at this situation more closely, the HDP is asking his LDP spouse to find them desirable and attractive when they can't even feel and see it for themselves. It's a vicious cycle of undesirability

Getting Out of This Rut
This is where the hard work begins! In a relationship, where there probably isn't any collaborative alliance, there is Normal Marital Sadism and you are faced with emotional gridlock, the first thing that tends to come to mind is to call it quits and leave the relationship. Thing is...you've put so much time and commitment in it that you don't just want to throw it all away. Also, you are going to face the same issues eventually in your next relationship anyway.

It's at this point that you need to work on your emotional balance, if you want to get through this. First, you need to start feeling and acting in a desirable way. Stop the blaming and confront yourself about your own short-comings and insecurities. Put some effort into the relationship and notice where you have been slacking off. Reinvent yourself, be spontaneous and adventurous at how you are going to be with your partner and yourself. Get a life of your own, go out, try new things and start building your confidence through experiences other than with your spouse (non-sexual ones). It's important not to perceive this as taking a break or avoiding the issue. It's a time of self-reflection where you build yourself and get to know who you truly are and who you want to be. Motivate and inspire yourself, it makes a person attractive and desirable. Lastly, stop taking things so personally! Some of it might be more about your partner than yourself. If it is about you then take a stand and become a better person, by seeing it as constructive criticism, even when it's not said that way.

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your self-esteem and sense of self-worth. You need to learn to tolerate pain, anxiety, fear and frustration to grow and become a mature adult in a healthy relationship.

Francois Renaud M.A.

* Inspired by the book Intimacy and Desire from David Schnarch