Relationships can be crucial to one’s health and survival. An almost 80-year old research study, the ‘Harvard Study of Adult Development’, has been dedicated to understanding what determines the health of an adult – tending to relationships forms an integral part of self-care.
It is natural for one to face challenges while maintaining and tending to these significant relationships as the expectations, needs, desires, and behaviors of each person are varied and a clash can understandably happen from time to time.
Here are a few patterns that one can watch out for in relationships, and corresponding actions that can be taken to manage them –
- Triangulation- Constantly consulting a loved one about your relationship, or worried that your partner is doing so?
Here, the problem between couples is maintained or aggravated due to the presence of one or more individuals trying to “solve” their problems. Common examples of a triangulation pattern in relationships involve consulting a parent, in-law, relative or colleague repeatedly for advice.
Following such a process can cause a conflict to freeze and stay in the same place.
Tip to try: Think about a time where your partner and you were able to contain an argument or difference of opinion, on your own. It is important to think about these exceptions and recall what enabled both of you to work on the challenges yourselves. Discuss how you could replicate what it took to get through this previous challenge.
- Pursuer-distancer- Do you think the distance between you and your partner is too much, or too little?
As per this pattern, when there is a clash in a relationship, there is likely to be one partner who is pursuing, or chasing intimacy, and another partner who is distancing, or avoiding intimacy.
The position of a pursuer, and distancer- both, are coming from an intent to protect themselves.
Tip to try: If this pattern is something that you have seen in your relationship, try doing the exact opposite of what you have done until now.
For instance, if you tend to get extremely upset when your partner doesn’t call you at a certain time, try involving yourself in another activity, instead of calling them at that instance, and expressing your displeasure. Know that it isn’t helping you to continue the pattern since the other person’s behavior is getting reinforced by what you do.
- Unhealthy boundaries- Is there too much, or too little independence and autonomy in your relationship?
Within relationships, there tend to be boundaries or invisible barriers which determine interaction – they can be rigid, normal or relaxed.
When boundaries are too rigid, they allow for very little contact outside the relationship. This can feel restrictive and cause disengagement. On the other hand, when boundaries are too relaxed it can cause entanglement of relationships.
Tips to try: There needs to be a balance between the boundaries being too rigid and too relaxed. For this, each partner’s needs and preferences need to be discussed and accommodated.