Ask a Psychiatrist and Get Answers to Mental Health Questions ASAP
Hello. Welcome to JA.com. You've provided some very detailed information in your question. Thank you. I'm very sorry to hear how difficult things are for you right now and it must be affecting your kids at times also. Let me get right to researching and writing out an answer that I think will be very helpful to you based on my work with couples and individuals in my private practice. I'll be back shortly to post your formal answer.
Let me get right to the heart of the matter here. I want to help you with the best available answer and supportive information. The sooner you can get this relationship issues resolved the sooner you can start to feel healthy and happy again, for yourself and for your children.
I’d like to start by saying that most emotional distress and conflicted or negative communication in relationships, like you’ve described, come from chronically unmet core-relationship needs. The most fundamental relationship needs are those associated with emotional attachment. These are the basic needs to feel loved, safe and secure with our partners, much the same way that a child needs to feel loved and protected by a loving parent.
The most in-depth and comprehensive modern research in relationship science shows that these attachment needs in adults are in many ways as crucial to our emotional health and wellbeing as food and air are to our physical well-being. It sounds to me that your both you and your boyfriend are experiencing chronically frustrated attachment needs.
Researchers can now predict divorce (and the marital research is directly applicable to non-married or engaged couples) with almost 100% accuracy based on how couples communicate around hot-button issues like, money, sex or problems with in-laws or extended families. Some of the most relationship damaging communication styles include the “criticism-defense” style and the stonewalling and even relationship-contempt styles. This is where one partner shuts down because their need to come first and feel deeply loved and safe with their partner goes unmet for prolonged periods of time.
Most likely, in your boyfriend’s case, his own critical communication is causing you shut down. It may be that it is actually a profound sense of love for you that leads to his hurtful (and this must stop now because it is not healthy for you and your children) criticisms of you. He may, be carrying frustrated attachment needs from a previous relationship, and his fear of losing you causes him to experience reactive-anger from those previous relationships – sometimes as far back as childhood.
Reactive-anger from these frustrated underlining tender emotional needs makes our IQ drop quickly and prevents us from thinking properly and problem-solving with our partner to get our underlining needs met.
We have close to a 50% divorce or breakup rate in this country and 80% of couples have sexual affairs. Emotional affairs numbers are likely higher but currently unmeasured. Relationship-repair and maintenance skills have to be learned. We are not born with them. It’s like learning how to drive, you want to learn good defensive driving skills before going for a drive through the city.
I strongly advise that both you and your boyfriend take action-steps to really learn some basic emotional-repair and maintenance skills. I’ve seen highly distressed couples turn the worst relationship experiences into a strong foundation of learned communication and re-connection skills that they first use to repair and improve their relationships and later draw on during times of normal relationship and life stress.
I’m providing some very good video and website learning resources to get this learning and emotionally corrective process started. I very strongly recommend that you both read Dr. Sue Johnson’s Book “Hold Me Tight” together once you’ve explored the links I share and decide how best to introduce this process to your boyfriend.
You may also wish, at some point to evidence-based couple’s counseling if things are still bumpy after you read and discuss the book together. If you do seek counseling EFT marital therapy is the best in the world. It gets results with most distressed couples in as little as 7 sessions. Results surprisingly include resolving diagnosed mild to moderate depression more effectively than medication and/or counseling that specifically target depression treatment. These results last for years with couples reporting happy healthy relationships 5 years or longer after therapy.
Here are the promised links to get this learning process started:
Here’s the book I recommended you and your partner read at or around the same time. It can provide you a practical new emotional language for discussing and resolving your relationship and communication issues:
Here’s the page for finding an EFT therapist in your area if you do decide to get some counseling again. If there isn’t one in your area talk to an EFT Clinical Trainer/Therapist to explore alternatives in your region :
If you can’t find an EFT therapist, I’d try to find an advanced trained Gotmann therapist. Here’s the link to their site, which will outline their research you are probably already familiar with. They also have a “find a therapist link” on this site: http://www.gottman.com/
I hope that helps. Let me know if I’ve missed anything answering your question. Your feedback is very important to me.
Please don’t forget to push the “Accept” but if you find value in my detailed answer.