Every relationship has its ups and downs - but some fights are bigger, which makes forgiving and forgetting harder. How you react to these disagreements will affect the course of your relationship. And according to Jean Chen, a psychotherapist and director at Relationship Matters, these are the four common problems Singapore couples face:
1. Putting each other down or blaming each other
“Some couples criticise and blame each other when they feel hurt,” says Jean. “They’ll say things like ‘You’re so selfish’ and ‘The kids don’t listen to you because you’re lazy’.”
In this type of exchange, one partner releases their frustration while the other remains quiet. Eventually, it may escalate into a situation where both partners can’t stop criticising, blaming and judging each other. Jean says that this problem may happen whenever there are differences in opinion about issues like parenting, household chores, and so on.
“You may think this is due to incompatibility but it’s really a communication problem in which blaming behaviour has played a huge part,” Jean explains.
2. Emotional avoidance and distancing
When it becomes too painful to engage or interact with our partner, some of us put up invisible walls in order to keep our partner at an emotional distance.
Says Jean: “One partner may shut down if they feel like they can’t make their partner happy or are being blamed for something. Emotional disconnection may erode a relationship over time and cause one partner to feel rejected, dismissed or neglected, and make the other, more critical. This vicious cycle of blame only results in further avoidance and emotional disconnection.”
3. Reduced sexual interest
When there’s a lack of emotional connection, couples may experience sexual issues like vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction, says Jean. The frequency of, and interest in, sex may also decrease when the relationship is in distress.
4. Reduced emotional support during critical periods
When both partners do not feel cared for, they may end up failing to support each other during bouts of illness, stressful periods like pregnancy, or when there’s a death in the family, serious career issues, conflicts with the in-laws, and so on.