Australian Psychologist Russ Harris employs the acronym “DRAIN”(1), to describe five processes guaranteed to drain all the vitality and intimacy out of our intimate relationships.
“D” stands for Disconnection
Usually when somebody hurts us (especially if it is our partner), we withdraw from them. This is quite natural and understandable – it can help the other person know that we are hurt and hopefully they will come looking for us, apologise and work things out with us.
But we can get stuck in this withdrawal or disconnection. Disconnection can become our permanent posture in regard to our partner; when this happens, love can wither and die.
“R” is for Reactivity
Again, it is understandable that we can react angrily if our partner does something that displeases us – especially if we think it was deliberate. But we can be way too touchy, reacting angrily to the slightest provocation. When we do this escalations are usually inevitable, and when escalations happen, nothing can be solved or achieved – we are caught up in a power struggle where both partners lose.
Couples who are highly reactive rarely work through the problems and obstacles that inevitably arise in a long term relationship.
“A” is for Avoidance
Sometimes it can be a good idea to avoid bringing up a difficult issue with our partner. We may sense that they are too tired or distracted, or not in the right mood to constructively communicate about a difficult issue. B
However if we never address difficult issues because we are too afraid of rocking the boat, then two things can happen – resentment builds within us, and secondly our relationship becomes progressively more and more shallow.
We can sometimes make the mistake of building negative cases against our partner in our own mind – going over and over arguments; the awful things that our partner may have said; never forgiving, opening all the old wounds and letting them constantly bleed.
You know you’re probably doing this when you have an argument with your partner about something specific, and all of a sudden you begin to “throw in the kitchen sink” of everything nasty thing she or he has done or said over the last 10 years.
“N” is for Neglecting your Values
What this means is that we act in ways that are completely contrary to what we want to be as a partner to someone else. Most of us want to be kind, compassionate, supportive, sensual, generous, humorous etc in our relationship; but instead we can find ourselves being selfish, mean-spirited, critical/ cold, manipulative etc. Our excuse for this is that we would not neglect our values if our partner wasn’t such a bitch or a pig.
The truth is that if we live out our values, irrespective of our partner’s behaviour, then it is highly likely that our partner will respond in kind – a positive feedback loop comes into play.
Ditch the DRAINs in your relationship!
These are the five main processes that Russ Harris identifies as barriers to intimacy. If you detect any of these in your own behaviour, it may be a good idea to make a therapy appointment, to work out alternative, more constructive ways of relating, to your partner.
Author: Matthew Ryan, B Psych (Hons), MA (Marriage & Family Therapy).
Matt Ryan is a senior psychologist with over 25 years of experience, and has seen great success in helping couples to enhance their relationship, and work through their problems and difficulties.
To book an appointment with Matthew Ryan call 1800 877 924 or book online today!
Harris, Russ. (2009) ACT with Love: stop struggling, reconcile differences, and strengthen your relationship with acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA, USA: New Harbinger.