You Feel Stable, Partner Seems Troubled?

For a variety of reasons, some fairly together folks partner with people who come from difficult backgrounds. These people may have suffered neglect, abuse, traumatic events or a pattern of challenges in their formative years.

Couples’ treatment can be one mode of working with this disparity in backgrounds.

Individual work can be effective, too.

What links both these modes of treatment is the removal of the shame and stigma of having suffered the adverse experiences. The more troubled person may lack the higher functioning partner’s self-esteem. There can be envy and resentment of the more stable one.

The differences can lead to acting out these frustrations in ways that put enormous strain on a couple.

Individual work with the troubled one can lead to healing the wounds left from the past. Among the most effective frameworks for this work is to see the present behavior as not so much bad or broken or disordered but rather as coping skills required at one time but are no longer effective.

This can lead to a loop: one acts out the pain; this in turn triggers the other who acts out in ways that reinforce the pain. Nothing changes.

Work with the more stable person includes education on how the partner developed those coping skills and ways to shift the approach to a healthier one by interrupting the repetitive loop. In my experience, what achieves the best outcome is working outside of a bad/shame/evil/marred sense of the other and within an empathic view that encourages collaboration between the members as they work on healing together.