Relationships Need Spring Cleaning Too

Christabel Butler UKAHPP, Accredited Psychotherapeutic Counsellor

There comes a time in a relationship when each partner knows the other well – their habits, how to get support, and how to respond when fending off perceived criticism from the other.

The other day I heard the phrase ‘banked resentments’. What a concept! I keep a credit balance of the unresolved issues I have with you so that I can cash in a resentment when, for example I need to repel a perceived attack.

“Me? Selfish? What about that time when you……..” and here comes the banked resentment, which I hope will deflect your attack/criticism.

This kind of defence by attack keeps two people in an uncomfortable stuck place together. It often creeps into a relationship after the first excitement has worn off and the banality of day to day existence hits home.

Couples seem particularly prone to using resentment credits after the life-changing effects of having children. Daily life settles into a frantic routine. The relationship just keeps afloat, in spite of all the complexities around it: of economics, of timetabling work and childcare, of family pressures. Closeness which hitherto may have helped smooth over any cracks in communication is no longer available - sexual contacts dwindle, often to the point of non-existence.

Imperceptibly, the communication between the couple worsens. It is possible for the pair to function, although, also imperceptibly, they drift apart. Suddenly they become aware of this awful gulf and they cannot reach each other across the void. The pressures from outside the relationship continue and the banked resentments are paid out from both sides.

This sad state can keep both partners in a stuck and miserable state. The relationship is in jeopardy. It is hard for the two of them to make changes by themselves. Relationship counselling can bring clarity to the current position and understanding and compassion for the history of the decline. A trained counsellor can support the pair to rediscover their strengths and deal with their disagreements and misunderstandings.

Taking responsibility for stopping the cycle of saving and spending the banked resentments on both sides can be a new beginning for better communication, and bring hope for the future. Time to Spring Clean!