Spiraling Down Relationship

I've been in a relationship for 16 years now. We're at a low point that doesn't seem to end. Resentment is prevalent in the relationship. My partner resents me for having a "tone" when I'm annoyed(i.e. she was making the cat eat wet food directly on the sheets on my side of the bed. I didn't feel it was hygenic and couldn't understand why she wouldn't use her side). According to her, I should have mentioned it "nicely". It's hard to be nice and not have a "tone" when you're annoyed!

Many years ago, I had issues and I admit was not as nice as I should have been. That was about 10 years ago. Since then, she is the one that is not nice and she use the past to make me feel guilty. Every time I try to discuss an issue, she turns it around to make it hers and to get sympathy for her issues. This leaves my issues not heard and makes me frustrated. I feel it always has to be about her. I'm the bad guy and she the good guy, always according to her. She rarely admits any wrong doing, and I'm the type to always admit it.
This week, she started using things I said to her in confidence to win arguments. I told her she broke my trust. She didn't care. She didn't realize she went too far after the argument and she didn't come to see me to discuss it calmly. Every day, she tries to argue about something and has a sour face. It is becoming unbearable. I feel we would both be better off apart.

She emailed you and drew a dark picture of me, which she admitted. She forgot to tell you that when I would get angry and needed a time out, I would ask for it but she would chase me in the house, getting keys to the room where I would lock myself to calm down. Then she would blame me and say I was violent when she would physically corner me and I would push her way to get by.

My question is: does that relationship still have a fighting chance or is it already too late?

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Ben's Answer:

Always two sides to every story - I know that well. It sounds like you're running away and hiding when you get upset or angry so that you don't create any conflicts. Maybe you crossed the line in the past - and now you're afraid of your own anger; but you have to set boundaries and assert yourself. I can't advise you on whether to leave or stay in this relationship. But I can say that no relationship can be healthy and happy unless both people can be civil to one another and both can take full responsibility for their own feelings, behavior, and communication.

Wet cat food on your side of the bed? That's one of the more creative passive-aggressive acts I've heard about! I'd be annoyed too. And probably not very nice about it.

Any relationship in which there is chasing, running away, getting cornered, pushing to get away, locking the door to get space.... is a relationship in need of some real help. Couples counseling would be a good place to start.

One of the main issues needing to be addressed is anger and resentment. Unless you both can express your resentments in a safe, non-abusive and healthy way, it's likely that things will continue to spiral down. You'll become more resentful while you're trying to retreat behind locked doors, and she will continue to blame you and punish you. Couples therapy may be the safest way to express your negative feelings with each other.

It's important to have hope, but both of you have to want to make things better, or it can't work.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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