Caught in a Negative Cycle with Someone You Love?
Turn that Cycle into a Positive One
Many couples get caught in “negative cycles.” This is a pattern of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that causes distress, frustration, sadness, and hopelessness in a relationship- and which plays out repetitively. You react to your partner and your partner reacts to you, usually in the same way, causing this cycle to continue. Understanding and untangling the pattern is the first step to climbing out. With the proper guidance, education, and emotion management techniques, your relationship can improve quickly.
Family Therapists often see relationships as two or more ‘systems’ working together. The good news is that it only takes one person to create changes throughout the system. If one person in the relationship responds from their true emotion, and not out of a “secondary emotion” such as anger, he or she will generally elicit a surprising and more pleasing response from the partner.
One of the more surprising results of couples’ therapy, is how successful people become at being able to identify when and how they are guilty of confusing their emotions and/or having poor emotion management. Clients often realize that responding inappropriately to a situation will perpetuate a negative cycle, yet they can’t help it. Once this is identified and new behaviors are learned, wonderful changes in the relationship are likely to follow.
Consider a familiar scenario: A couple who is bickering about something (probably, the same thing they’ve been arguing about for years). Person A could have behaved more appropriately. Person B’s reaction was inappropriate too, as it consisted of yelling, degrading, criticizing, and disapproving. Person A thinks that Person B is responding extremely harshly. Person B feels totally frustrated and resentful. Both partners feel like the other will just never get it.
The difficult part of therapy is summoning the desire to create change when you don’t feel like your spouse is doing much to help the situation. Couples spend a large amount of time arguing who is right and who is wrong and this process generally inhibits both parties from taking the initiative and promoting healing in the relationship.
But: We can only control our own behaviors and our own reactions. If we sit back and wait for others to make repairs, there is little hope to change a relationship. At some point, you may realize that your relationship means more to you than waiting for your partner to take the first step. That will be the moment will be that your negative cycle will be reversed.
… And it will all come about from just one change in the system.
A challenging part of rebuilding a relationship is to correctly identify and ameliorate the process, without getting caught up in the content. Sometimes, it takes a third person to help you see things objectively. This is precisely what Marriage and Family Therapists are trained to do.
Things to ponder:
How often do you find yourself complaining to your spouse about the same thing?
Do you ever feel that he/she will just never understand you and you might as well just give up saying what you think because he/she won’t get it anyway?
Do you find yourself hurt and lonely and longing for a good relationship, but it seems that whenever you are with your loved one you can’t do anything but argue?
Do you have needs that remain unmet?
Do you know the difference between needs and desires? Are you communicating them effectively?
Can you describe any negative cycle in your relationship -Do you or your partner trigger the other’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors in a way that prompts them to reacts inappropriately?