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 thereof. 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?
Francois Renaud M.A.
* Inspired by the book Intimacy and Desire from David Schnarch
Normal Marital Sadism: Learn How to Hate Your Lover
Emotional Gridlock: The Underlying Issues in Couples