Here is what a negative pattern would look like.
Jane gets ignored by Jim.
Jane feels hurt and unimportant when ignored by Jim.
Jane reacts by snipping and getting critical of Jim.
Jim reacts by snipping back, getting defensive and then emotionally disengaging (shuts down) from Jane.
Jane feels ignored even more by Jim. Jane grumbles to friends and the friends are supportive of Jane. Janes stops snipping and emotionally withdraws from Jim.
Jim is glad Jane stops snipping. But is puzzled why Jane is distant. All they talk about are kids, work and responsibilities to manage their complex lives. The discussions are important but both partners end up feeling emotionally shallow.
Neither takes an emotional risk to say what they feel and miss.
Wash, rinse, repeat for twenty two years. Kids leave home. Jane and Jim feel like they are strangers or roommates.
And they are.
What can break this pattern?
And then, “What happens when I stop snipping and withdraw?”
“Oh, we are civil but have no emotional connection.”
Basically it is very difficult to break old patterns and sustain new ones when there is no awareness about them.
Being aware is a crucial first step. The vast majority of couples in my practice have total clarity about what their partner does that is dysfunctional. But they have little awareness of the impact of their own dysfunctionality on their partner. They simply keep repeating the dysfunctional pattern and hoping the partner gets the message and responds with new and improved response.
- Be aware of what you both do that keeps getting repeated in a negative way.
- Decide you want to break your part of the cycle.
- Tell your partner what you have observed and what you are going to do differently and why you are going to do it. Your motivation is going to be for one reason only, which will keep you out of a trap. You are going to be motivated by the desire to become a better person when faced with adversity. You are going to become bigger than the problem instead of the problem being bigger than you are. You are going to do it because you will feel better about yourself and not criticize your partner if they don’t immediately jump on your bandwagon of change.
In Couples Counseling this is the first and most effective step to creating a better version of you and a healthier relationship. In addition, I hear parents say they love their children very much. Yet they continue to exercise unhealthy behavior. We are what we lived. Unhealthy childhood patterns don’t discriminate. I provide Individual, Couples and Family Counseling in San Diego and its neighboring communities. Please call me at (858) 735-1139 if you would like help with your relationship. I offer in-person, telephone or internet counseling.