One of the most common reasons someone has addictive or uncontrollable behaviors is because of an unhappy relationship.
It’s important to note that uncontrollable behavior is one way we hide and avoid our emotional pain. Whether you’re aware of it or not, as you act out, you push your own needs aside and deflect your pain onto others and cause harm to your relationships.
This vicious cycle can go on for years if you never stop and take the time to evaluate why you react the way you do to certain situations. I know it’s easier said than done, but habits – especially ones connected to past trauma – need to be brought to the surface.
Only then can you can address them, learn from them, and ultimately have healthy relationships.
Let’s explore where things currently stand, the two biggest issues that cause unhappy relationships, and how to handle your uncontrollable behavior.
Where Do You Stand?
How do you classify your marriage happiness?
As of 2021, 61% of Americans say their marriage is in a very happy state. I love to hear it! Especially considering the twists and turns all of our relationships have endured throughout the pandemic.
But where does this leave the ~39% of Americans who aren’t as happy? You hear about unhealthy relationships. Maybe you see them play out amongst your friends and family members, or maybe you were previously in one.
Either way, I want to point out the positive side of this conversation before we dive into the driving factors that cause this heartache and pain.
1. Trust–The Big One
You know trust is a must-have in every relationship. It’s the foundation you build upon so your relationship can flourish. But what does it look like when things take a turn?
What Are Trust Issues
Trust issues can stem from a number of situations. Constant broken promises, deceit, unreliable partners, and a lack of support to reach your goals can cause trust issues.
If you experience any of these difficult trust issues with your partner, take some time to yourself and process the behavior. The more you sit with it, the better understanding you will have of your situation, reactions, and needs moving forward. If you don’t take this time, it’s typical to carry these trust issues into your next relationship.
When past trust issues spill into new partnerships, you’re on the fast track to an unhappy relationship.
You may start to have feelings of jealousy or have a jump in your anxiety as you 20-question every move your partner makes. This anxiety easily bleeds into other areas of your life and makes it difficult for you to trust friends, co-workers, and maybe even certain family members. It’s not a win-win for you.
Anxiety isn’t the only issue that stems from broken trust. It’s not uncommon to experience insecurity, especially if there is a past of infidelity. Constant check-ins and confirming where your partner is, who they are with, and what they’re doing will only drive them away.
The Dangers of Trust Issues in Unhappy Relationships
You may have had someone close to you break your trust in the past – such as an absent parent, a relative or teacher who mistreated you, or a best friend who was using you.
It’s common to avoid negative feelings toward those people and project them onto someone else, including a partner whom you’re in a relationship with.
Your trust issues with your partner could be due to feelings you’ve displaced onto them.
This explains why a lack of trust or trust issues are some of the main reasons why you may be in an unhappy relationship.
Some of us like to be in control, and some of us gladly hand over the wheel. But where is the line when it comes to controlling your relationship?
Here’s an Example
You go out with your friends for dinner and drinks. Your partner is busy at work, and you send a text message so they know where you are while they wrap up work. But the evening changes course very quickly.
Your partner starts texting you asking what you’re wearing and asking you to send photos of your outfit. They even ask why you think it’s necessary to even get ready when they’re not with you. The texts are nonstop throughout your evening, eventually pushing you to head home early.
You want to make the relationship work, so you chalk it up to them being upset about missing the night out. But it quickly escalates to questions about your daily routine and things that are second nature to you. Your partner starts to tell you what to eat for breakfast and how to do your hair.
In reaction to this extreme control, you start to question your decision and lash out at your family, friends, and possibly even a co-worker. The people in your life offer help in the way they know how to–by offering their advice as they watch you struggle.
They only want to help you, but the control in your relationship boxes you in, and your reaction to those looking out for you is extreme. This sort of control in a partnership only leads to an unhappy relationship and uncontrollable behaviors.
Identify the Root of Your Problem
A man says he has an unhappy relationship with his wife. He often explodes with verbal outbursts, and he claims it is his wife’s fault and that she cries too much. She has a tendency to cry when she gets overwhelmed or hurt, and this makes him extremely angry.
The first step to defuse the situation is to show how divorce is not an effective strategy for dealing with his uncontrollable behavior.
This happens all too often–blame is put on the partner, and we see 50% of first marriages fail and 75% of second marriages fail.
The next best step is to sit down and find out where the outbursts stem from and why. As it turns out, the husband’s sister cried a lot as a child, and he felt she did it on purpose to manipulate their family members to get what she wants.
In fact, when this man was young, any time his mother was giving him attention, his sister would cry and take the attention away. So he had a great deal of rage at them, but that was mixed with embarrassment over wanting his mother’s attention, causing a lot of internal conflicts.
Rather than confronting this, it gets buried. As the wife becomes upset, these same feelings pop up. As we dig into the story, we realize it’s best to sit with the situation and analyze why we react the way we do.
I gave him a bridge statement to use with his wife to tell her before the rage comes up again.
Bridge statement: “I’m getting upset about this, I need to step away, I’ll be in the garage working for an hour, I’ll come back and check on you and see if we can talk about this calmly.”
Adding in the bridge statement changed their whole dynamic, and both of their uncontrollable behaviors became a lot calmer and a lot more in their control. This can be extremely helpful when communicating in your unhappy relationship.
The Dangers of Control Issues
When we are growing up, we naturally need our parents to take control of our lives since they have so much more life experience than we do.
Ideally, parents should slowly step back and let you take control of your life and your decisions as you get older and your life experiences expand.
If you have a trusting relationship with your parents, you will fight for that control in adolescence and work out a compromise with your parents. If for some reason you felt as if you couldn’t or were not allowed to fight for control of your life – maybe due to guilt, shame, or fear, you may have grown into an adult who does not advocate for yourself or know how to set boundaries.
This can be damaging in our relationships going forward and is a contributing factor in control issues that cause unhappy relationships.
Face the Dark Stuff
Let’s go on a short ride together.
Find a quiet space where you can sit alone for the next couple of minutes. Get comfortable. Take a deep breath.
I want you to think back to the last time you overreacted or exploded at your partner. It can be something as recent as 30 minutes ago. I want you to observe the situation in your mind as it replays.
Try to pinpoint the exact moment that made you tip and explode. Was it a certain reaction by your partner? A specific phrase they said?
Whatever it is, hold that in your mind and sit with it. Rather than getting triggered, I want you to think about why that specific moment set you off. I want you to dig beneath the surface.
Is your reaction linked to a childhood memory that makes you uncomfortable or feel unloved? Is it from a previous toxic relationship? Or is it from a past friendship that ended badly that you cannot seem to shake?
Sit with this moment and think through how it impacts your behavior and relationships today.
This may be hard to do, but quietly to yourself, I want you to explain how this past trauma impacts your relationship and partner. Once you feel comfortable saying it out loud to yourself, I want you to envision sharing this with your partner.
Take a few more deep breaths, then go share your feelings with your partner.
So, What’s My Next Step?
Before you jump ship, evaluate the importance of your relationship. Rather than leaving a situation, you can learn tools and techniques to improve not only your relationship, but also yourself.
Looking to restore your unhappy relationship? Enroll in my Intimacy Now course.
Intimacy Now is a self-paced course that will give you insights and teach you techniques that will create a breakthrough in your relationship.
Click here to book a consultation and get your relationship back on track.