Danny and Jane, a couple who have been married for 5 years came to couple’s therapy because they each felt unloved. As much as they were attracted to one another initially, they took every misstep personally. They allowed these feelings to eat them up inside. Cause them to withhold joy from themselves and the other. As much as Jane tried to create a pleasant environment, Danny had a hard time seeing the little things Jane did. This caused Jane to feel empty and alone. The more empty and alone she felt the more angry she became.
She attempted to create opportunities for connection with Danny. Each opportunity appeared to be missed by him. When she invited him to choose furniture, he was busy. She invited him to make a weekly menu, he forget to give his input.
The more opportunities he missed, the angrier she became. The angrier she became the more he distanced himself from her as anger scared the heck out of him.
For a long time the couple were entrenched in this dynamic until they began to recognize one another’s pain. What blocked them initially from realizing the other’s pain was they were so steeped in their own pain that it made it very difficult to see the person standing next to them.
These mis-steps happens at some point in almost all of our marriages. We get so caught up in our own feelings of despair that we can hardly recognize those of the one we love. Unfortunately, when we get caught up in our own pain, and forget about the person who is most important in our lives we forget to acknowledge them and take our love for granted.
How Does this Negative Cycle Work?
The negative cycle begins and ends at exactly the same point. She reaches for her husband, her need gets missed and then she shouts and spews anger as she feels ignored. This then causes her partner to pull away as they run and hide. At first blush you may say the loud angry person is the cause of this mess, but really the dynamic is being fueled by both. Who started the fight is completely irrelevant. And by the way, it isn’t always the woman who is the angry, shouty one. Men are often angry and shouty too.
Just as water drips on a rock and over time and causes holes to form in sheet rock, so too this negative dance between a couple causes their relationship to erode.
How can this cycle be reversed?
Each part of the couple needs to pause and notice the cycle that’s been created by one another. Each needs to acknowledge the pain they feel and reflect on the pain of their partner. Each part must take the courage to take a different step. To share their pain in a soft and gentle way so as to create space for the other to hear it and respond.
By slowly taking different steps, paying attention to what is outside of you, feeling your own pain and acknowledging that of your partner and being able to show consideration for their feelings you can slowly work towards healing your wounds and making different moves.
If you aren’t currently in a relationship it’s great to learn how to build your own capacity for intimacy and connection to yourself NOW!
By following these tips and really holding yourself accountable for the moves you take you will find you can over time calm your nervous system down and create space for greater feelings of intimacy.
Get out of this Cycle
This is not an easy thing to do alone and often takes the help of some outside perspective. If you find yourself caught in this dance time and again and can’t seem to get out, even with the help of the steps above, feel free to reach out. I’d love to hear about some of your difficult dances that you have with your partner, so please drop me a line and share them with me: firstname.lastname@example.org.