Have you and your partner ever fought about the most insignificant thing and suddenly found yourselves bringing up all the bad things the other person has done since you were together? We have all been there! This happens when we have not been able to really work through past issues.
Many times, we let go of things for the sake of not fighting anymore. We believe that if we stop talking about it and allow time to pass by, it will disappear. Unfortunately, this does not happen sporadically. Hurt needs to heal and for it to heal, we need to talk about it and process it. With time, these hurt feelings turn into resentment. This resentment is there waiting for the next time we feel not important or seen by our partner and it all comes back as if it was happening all over again. At this point we usually start the blame game, where everything happens because of the other person. This is when we end up in negative cycles with no end or resolution.
There are two in a relationship. It takes two for it to work and also, for it to slide into the cycle.This negative cycle will continue as long as both get reactive. For this reason, it is very important that both of you realize that moving away from the cycle and actually creating anew positive cycle one that leads to connection instead of disconnection, is something you both need to work on together. Here are four steps you can both take to stop the negative cycle and start creating a positive cycle that leads to connection:
1. Recognize that you have a part in it
Both of you are in this together and you have created a relational dance where you are both reacting and bringing past hurt. We tend to look outside for the problem and the solution of the problem, leaving us feeling completely powerless. If you both realize that you do have the capacity to change things around, you can use these moments of disconnection to create a stronger connection.
2. Awareness! Recognize your reaction
There is a moment when something gets to us. We feel that trigger, that twirling energy inside that sends us to that place of reactivity, either by wanting to go away very far or wanting to fight and get our voice be heard. Either reaction will be a trigger for your partner as well, leading you both towards your well-known cycle. Your reactivity will distance you from your partner instead of what you really want that is to actually be closer.
If you recognize that you are feeling triggered notice the intensity. If you cannot calm yourself down, take some time out. Let your partner know that you need some time before you say or do something you will later regret. When you feel calmer, when that twirling sensation is not there, go to step 3.
3. Recognize what you really want to say
As you calm down, notice what is really happening inside of you and what it is that you really want to say for yourself and about yourself. Recognize your feelings underlying that anger and frustration. Are you feeling hurt and sad because your feelings or thoughts seem to not be important to your partner? Are you feeling guilty because you did something that hurt (or could potentially hurt) your partner’s feelings? Are you feeling vulnerable and powerless because it seems that no matter what you do it will never be good enough?
If you can recognize any of these, imagine what would happen if you were to say that instead of pointing the finger and getting defensive.
4. Recognize your needs
See if you can notice what you need from your partner. How can your partner help you? Do you need comfort? Would a hug help? Do you need him or her to listen to you? Express these needs clearly.
Try this exercise once with your partner and see what happens. I am sure you will find a very different way of relating with one another. If you learn to master this, you can actually create a positive cycle where you both feel closer and more connected with one another.