Living with an alexithymic partner can cause great suffering, since in these affective ties empathy is usually the great absentee. It is also common for one of the members to miss that genuine connection in which feelings are validated, from which to build an authentic intimacy through the words they nourish and those complicit gestures where emotions dance.
Loneliness, uncertainty, incomprehension… These and other feelings are those experienced by those people who share life with an alexithymic. Now, we can not leave aside the reality of those who suffer from this psychological condition that many define as a neurological disorder and others as a psychological disorder with social conditioning.
Be that as it may, there is an undoubted fact: the alexithymic loves, falls in love, feels, has feelings, is happy, gets excited and suffers like any other person. However, and there lies the real problem, they are unable to express what they feel and, in turn, they do not understand the emotional codes of those around them.
If socially this fact brings more than one limitation, at the emotional level alexithymia is highly problematic. Moreover, as revealed by a study carried out at the University of Missouri-Columbia by Dr. Nestor Fry-Cox, alexithymia could be behind a good part of the breakups between couples.
To this we must add another one and that is that it is estimated that almost 10% of the population could suffer from this emotional communication deficit, being especially common among the male gender.
The word alexitimia comes from the Greek and means etymologically, ‘absence of words to express emotions or feelings’.
What is it like to live with an alexithymic couple?
Living with an alexithymic couple supposes a wear and tear in every way. It is, in the first place, because often none of the members is aware that in that relationship, a third inhabitant inhabits: the psychological disorder itself or the neurological alteration. We say the latter because at present, there is still no consensus on the subject and also, because there are many people who do not know why their inability to express and understand emotions.
It was in 1972 when the psychiatrist Peter Sifneos described this condition for the first time. From then until now, we know that alexithymia could be related to an alteration of the limbic system. Also, that it has nothing to do with the psychopathic personality, that is, the alexithymic does feel, but does not know how to interpret one’s own emotions or those of others.
All this causes the following realities to be experienced at an affective and relational level.
Inability to express what they feel
The alexithymic couple will never tell us if they are angry, happy, excited or worried. For these people, any emotion felt is a mystery, it is nothing more than a set of physiological experiences in which to perceive tension, restlessness, a stomach ache, etc. They can not express what they feel because they do not know what is happening in their body. They can not name emotions despite feeling them.
Something like that supposes, for example, not being able to handle anger. Nor can they convey love, admiration and those emotional imprints so basic in a relationship.
They do not understand what the couple feels
Alexithymic people are unable to identify the emotions of others. They will not understand, for example, why the couple feels hurt by certain behaviors. Nor will he be able to understand why he is not happy, what he needs, what saddens him, why he changes his mood…
Moreover, if at some point the couple asks him to have an intimate conversation, he will feel incapable. Having to delve into that kind of emotional aspects is somewhat uncomfortable for the alexithymic. It is an aspect that does not know how to handle, that does not see, that does not understand.
Likewise, the communication style of the alexithymic is also very striking. They do not like reflections, double meanings, poetic, ironic or romantic language. His approach is always very logical, concrete and literal. Hence, communication with them is always very rigid and, above all, as difficult as it is frustrating.
My partner is alexithymic, what can I do?
Living together, creating a project for the future, solve problems or even reach simple agreements with the alexithymic person can be very complicated. We must bear in mind that all our social fabric is basically governed by emotions. What can we do in these cases?
Whether we are the couple or the person with alexithymia, we must understand an important aspect. Often, this condition is accompanied by other disorders. It is very common, for example, that there is a latent depression, a stress disorder or even more, alexithymia is also present in people with Asperger.
Be that as it may, we need an adequate diagnosis. Likewise, alexithymia also falls within a spectrum. That is to say, there will be someone who suffers it more acutely and who evidences only some features. Therefore, it is always appropriate to request expert help and work on any of these aspects.
Alexithymia and affective relationships, keys to keep in mind
We must consider that the alexithymic person does have feelings, but he does not know how to express them. Therefore, it is appropriate to work some basic codes through which to express the affection. The looks, the caresses and the physical contact are a good scenario where we can validate ourselves on a daily basis.
It is essential that the alexithymic has psychological support. It is the only way for the relationship to be sustained. This condition is not cured, it is worked on so that the patient finds mechanisms and skills to improve their empathy, communication and emotional expression.
The areas that will be worked on in therapy with the alexithymic patient are emotional stimulation and identification, empathy, social skills, emotional communication and the reduction of anxiety and stress.
Finally, we must consider that not everyone responds well to therapy. Moreover, many alexithymics are reluctant to accept specialized help because they consider the problem to be others. For some of these men and women are the couples themselves who show a problem with their emotions; They are too intense, irrational and incomprehensible before their eyes.
In these cases, the best option is one’s own well-being. Safeguard integrity and avoid useless suffering will always be the best response when we see no willingness to change on the part of the alexithymic.