When one or both partners in a relationship struggle with feelings of vulnerability, it can erode the foundation of the relationship. In her book Hold Me Tight, Sue Johnson, Ed.D., clinical psychologist and one of the leading innovators in couples’ therapy, encourages couples to recognize their “demon dialogues”—specific ineffective communication patterns that spur a lack of safety in the relationship, push your partner away, and reinforce feelings of insecurity.
If you’re already feeling anxious in a relationship, then communicating in a cold or defensive way adds to that anxiety, which compounds the problem. And when one of the partners needs to feel safer and more assured but senses they’re being pushed away, they may withdraw and shut down. Repeating these behavioral patterns is divisive and triggers poor communication in relationships.
The pandemic dramatically heightened and exacerbated these issues. The increased time couples spent together forced them to assess their relationships more closely. In turn, those who honestly faced what did or didn’t work benefited by utilizing the chance to improve the areas they felt posed challenges.