Breaking Your Negative Relationship Cycle

In your relationship or marriage, maybe you’ve found yourself getting caught up in a rollercoaster-type experience where you and your wife, girlfriend or partner fight for some time, and then all goes back to serenity, and then it happens again and again, with constant repetition and no solution.

Fighting and conflict happen repeatedly, in a cycle format, and usually it’s tough to see what triggers your fall into fighting, conflict and attacks. When we’re in the fighting, we have no perspective. How can we help ourselves get out of it?

We’re going to talk about how to stop conflict and fightingthrough better understanding your negative relationship cycle.

As a fundamental component of the model of couples therapy known as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), developed by Canadian psychologist Susan Johnson, PhD., identifying your negative cycle consists of looking at certain layers that exist behind the conflict you get into and actually see.

The negative cycle you and your partner get stuck in usually consists of negative behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that causes distress. We get sucked into this “vortex” and have a difficult time seeing ourselves when we get lost in our “cycle.” We often resort to reactive – and hurtful – words, actions and facial gestures when we are upset, needing something from our partner, or not feeling connected or understood.

When you get lost in conflict, look out for these things that you might be doing to aggravate your negative cycle:

  • Avoiding or withdrawing from your partner
  • Saying hurtful things that produce more conflict
  • Feelings that bubble up that don’t get communicated
  • Not feeling like you’re being heard
  • Trigger words or statements your partner says that cause you to react
  • Identifying what you’re telling yourself about your relationship (or your partner) when in conflict
  • What behaviors you engage in when you’re upset

Here’s a free worksheet on identifying your negative relationship cycle. Download and print two copies, one for you and one for your partner or spouse. Open up a conversation around your results, and you might be really pleasantly surprised. And you might just surprise her, too.

For further help, read Sue Johnson’s “Hold Me Tight,” an excellent read to help you start to make sense of this confounding cycle.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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