How the splitting defense mechanism is destroying your relationship?

Defense mechanism splitting Is your relationship filled with love and anger, where you want your partner to go, but then you do not want them to leave you? Are you tired of the push-pull?  Full of ups and downs? Do you find it unbearable being together, but cannot be apart? It can be exhausting switching from feeling love, to then erupting into anger so easily.

Do you find small things end up becoming heated in your relationship? Where nothing gets resolved because the conflict is too intense? Perhaps, you’ve lost that loving feeling and feel constant tension between you. Is your relationship suffering because you hold onto things and cannot let go?

There may be a reason why your relationships fluctuates between highs and lows. The reason couples cannot manage the intense upheaval is because of the way they use the defense mechanism, splitting, to protect themselves from feelings of hurt, which ends up with couples hurting each other and destroying their relationship.

If you are you constantly feeling hurt or pain, and feel that your partner is to blame, then you could be using the splitting defense mechanism. Those with Borderline Personality Disorder use splitting often occurs when you are constantly angry at your partner for how you feel, often wanting them to make up for it, or pay for it. As long as the person remains angry at their partner they do not resolve the splitting.

Providing relationship Counselling Melbourne, I see many individuals who feel rejected, unloved or angry, over and over again, in every relationship. Somehow the person that they once loved ends up hurting them, whereby they end up feeling victimised. Either they are choosing the wrong relationships, splitting or both. So, how do you know if you are using the defense mechanism splitting?

Splitting occurs when a person see’s themselves and others as either all good or all bad, but not seeing both the good and bad traits at the same time. It is often seen as black or white thinking, seeing a person as good or bad, feeling good or bad. The person does not see the shades of grey in-between. The person only see’s  all the good qualities, or all the bad qualities in themselves. Splitting also happens when others are perceived as either all good or all bad.

When a person is splitting, they may exaggerate how they see things, as extremes or polar opposites. For instance we may feel either good or bad about ourselves. One moment we are happy and the next we feel down. When we feel overly good, we ignore all the bad things. Whereas, when we feel bad, we overlook the good things about ourselves and others.

How does the splitting defense mechanism destroy relationships?

defense splitting A person can misinterpret the actions of others based on how they feel deep within themselves. Often, the person is not in touch with how they feel deep down. When these intolerable feelings surface,  they blame others for how they feel, without realising what they are doing. They have no awareness that their feelings belong inside of them, so they think that people are mistreating them and causing them to feel this way.

The splitting defense mechanism  occurs when we cannot see the good and bad sides of a partner at the same time. It distorts how a person see’s others. You might see your partner as either perfect or flawed. When you perceive that you are treated well,  you feel  happy and in love. Whereas when your partner comes home late, he becomes awful and inconsiderate, causing you to feel unloved.  In this situation the person forgets about all the good aspects about the relationship, but see’s everything bad.

Splitting distorts how a person see’s their partner by seeing them in the best possible light or the worst possible light. When their partner brings up underlying feelings, their partner becomes blamed for how the feel, becoming all bad.

Usually something will bring up bad feelings within the person, which they cannot tolerate. In order to defend against feeling this way, these feelings get projected onto the partner. Instead of feeling bad, the partner becomes bad. The person can find fault in their partner, as if they caused them to feel this way. So, the person can turn against their partner, finding fault in them. It often occurs when you hear someone being bitter or resentful towards their partner, or complaining about them. They turn against the partner, when they feel unworthy or not good enough, in order to avoid feeling this way. The splitting defense mechanism assists them with feeling better momentarily, by blaming their partner for how they feel, rather than acknowledging their feelings and dealing with them. The partner is seen as mistreating them, and not loving them, or abandoning them, when they are avoiding the feelings. In order to escape feeling bad, the partner becomes bad.

When you are convinced that your partner is hurting you, it can lead to a turbulent relationship. It becomes difficult to see any good in your relationship if you are projecting your past hurts onto them and seeing them as the person who hurt you.

The origins of the splitting defense

Splitting protected us from getting hurt as children. In order to protect the positive view of the parent, the bad feelings are forgotten (splitting). Instead of seeing the parent as bad, the person internalises that they are bad, unworthy or rejected. There are times when the split is not repaired, where there are not enough good childhood experiences. In these instances these bad feelings get split off and buried, while becoming internalised in our ‘self’ and ‘other’ representations, and become re-experienced in our later relationships, distorting how we see ourselves and loved ones. These feelings become projected onto the partner, who is often accused of treating them badly.

People usually project all the good aspects onto their partner at the beginning of the relationship, by seeing them in an idealised way when they are infatuated by them. Once their partner does something wrong, which brings up their pain, they usually project all the bad aspects onto them.  This inflames the response, by finding fault in them, causing the splitting defense to destroy relationships. The splitting defense can amplify the problem, making it seem far worse. So, it can be perceived that the man who came home late does does not care about his wife, no matter what he says.  The wife does not believe he loves her, despite what he tells her.

How to recognize if the splitting defence mechanism is damaging your relationship?

  • Are your feelings so overwhelming that you react to get rid of them, for instance sending angry texts or breaking up all of a sudden, without thinking it through?  Do the actions of splitting push your partner away?
  • Do you accuse your partner of things because of how you feel, without checking them out?
  • Do you think your partner will cheat or leave you, so you expect it to happen, despite the fact you have no evidence?
  • Does it feel that what you were feeling was caused by others? Usually when we think someone has caused us to feel something, we are splitting
  • Do you get so enraged that you lose a grip on your behaviour and don’t realise how you are treating others?
  • Do you frequently feel like the victim, being mistreated by others?
  • Do you hurt those you love by blaming them or accusing them of things they have not done?
  • Do you say things that you regret?
  • Do you imagine things are going on, read into things that are not there, or misinterpret them?
  • Do you feel overly in-love or overly resentful, rather than have realistic view for your partner, where you take the good with the bad?
  • Does it feel like your partner is putting you down when they are offering you constructive feedback?
  • Splitting can feel impulsive. There may be no evidence for the overwhelming feeling.
  • Does it feel like everyone abandons or hurts you?
  • Is it hard to let go of that feeling?
  • Do you feel in love and then want to break up all of a sudden, forgetting the good aspects until the partner has left?
  • Do you say things in the heat of the moment and regret saying them after?
  • Are your feelings disproportionate to the situation?

We shouldn’t accuse or blame our partner for feelings that belong to our past. Instead we can let them know when we are triggered in certain situations, so they can be sensitive to our feelings.

The partner on the receiving end of someone who is splitting can feel attacked, blamed or wrongly accused. They often feel that they are made out to be the enemy and made to change. Often, what ever they say can be taken the wrong way, so they either give up or defend back, causing the relationship to spiral downwards. In this way, both partners end up damaging the relationship. When the partner attempts to tell the splitting person that they are wrong, the splitting person feels attacked and attacks back  The person who is splitting believes that their partner has caused the problem because they believe that what they are feeling is real, and think that their partner does not see what they are doing to them. The more their partner gets  blamed or accused for treating them badly, the more their partner reacts defensively. The couple become stuck in defensive patterns and unable to understand each other or see each other clearly. The splitting defensive mechanism can destroy relationships in this way.

Splitting destroys relationships In couple counselling, the person who is splitting will usually paint their partner in the worst possible light, in an attempt to turn the therapist against their partner.  They usually blame their partner for the problems, and they usually want the therapist on their side. The couple will not change if they each find fault in each other. It is essential that the couples therapist does not get drawn into taking sides, by not being pulled into the splitting. If the therapist does not recognize that the person is splitting, they usually fail to address the issues and the sessions become a blame game. Couple therapy interrupts the splitting defense by exploring the persons feelings, so they can express how they feel in a way that invites their partner to understand how they feel.

Our Counselling Melbourne services provides counselling for those with relationship difficulties.

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If you notice destructive behaviour as a result of splitting you can contact Nancy at Counselling Services Melbourne , sign up on her newsletter for free advice and tips or follow us on social media on Facebook and Twitter

All content is copyright Nancy Carbone 2018

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