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There is a disorder that is making more and more sense into why couples break up. The personality trait is called “Alexithymia,” and it renders the person it affects unable to communicate their feelings or understand their feelings as well as their partner’s. Communication is the number one reason most relationships break up or divorce, so understanding what happens and why some people have such difficulty communicating may help save marriages and shed light into how marital therapy can help these couples.
As you can imagine, the person who has this condition does not suffer alone, and their partner usually feels lonely and unable to connect. Nick Frye-Cox is a doctoral student at the University of Missouri, and after studying people with these conditions, reports that although the affected person can describe physical feelings such as a headache, stomachache or rapid heart rate, they cannot identify if the emotion accompanying the physical affects is sad, happy, or upset. People with this disorder have trouble relating to others and they tend to be uncomfortable in social situations, which may also cause them to suffer social anxiety. They present as being the “stoic type,” and avoid emotional topics. Many of these people do marry because they like the security and sense of feeling that they belong, but they are incredibly difficult to form an emotional intimate relationship with. When surveyed, these people reported feeling lonely and had low marriage quality.
Alexithymia does affect both males and females, but it affects men more. People with this condition are constantly weighing the costs and benefits of being in a relationship, so they enter and exit quite easily because they don’t expect the others to be able to meet their needs, and they don’t try to meet the needs of others they are involved with.