“…rejection and abandonment are processed in the same part of the brain as physical pain. Hurt feelings are not a metaphor, especially in your most important relationships.”
Sue Johnson Founder of Emotional Focused Therapy
I work with a lot of couples who describe their relationship as being stuck in a negative cycle they seem powerfulness to break.
Or as one couple called it: ‘The Doom Loop’.
A negative cycle or Doom Loop is more common than you might think. So don’t feel bad if your relationship is stuck in one.
There’s a lot you can do.
Read on to find out more.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Like it or not, being in a relationship with someone means you’re vulnerable to the impact their behaviour has on you.
Now you might have heard via friends or social media that you’re responsible for your own feelings?
Well, sure, it’s important that you’re aware of your own feelings and try to take responsibility for them.
But the trouble is, all the research, all the functional MRI’s suggest peoples relationships affect their feelings. And what that means is how your partner treats you affects your emotions.
And there’s not much you can do about it.
Well, we’re connection forming creatures and our brains have built into them complex structures for being able to take in what another human is expressing and then being able to react and respond to it.
All of which means – to some degree – your partner is responsible for your emotional wellbeing.
Though as I’m very fond of saying…
…It’s not quite as simple as that.
Yes, you can meditate, yes you can practice compassion, but it’s nearly impossible to not be guided by your inbuilt instinctual responses.
Simply put, when you love someone, when you really love someone, you’re very vulnerable to that person.
And when you’re vulnerable to your partner, you’re wide open to them and what that means is their behaviour will have a massive impact upon you. And then your behaviour will have an impact upon them and so on.
It looks like this:
Your partner does or says something…
… It impacts on you and you feel something…
… So you do or say something in response…
… It has an impact on your partner…
… And they do or say something…
And the whole cycle goes on and on – For better or for worse, for positive results or negative results.
Let’s take a closer look at a negative cycle:
Your partner comes in from work and they see you sat on the sofa, watching TV.
For whatever reason, crappy journey home, rough day at work – whatever, in a sarcastic tone they say:
“Ah, hard at it huh?”
You feel upset by their comment because you’ve only just that minute sat down after washing the dishes and doing a little tidying up.
So you stand up and with a hint anger in your tone you reply:
“Yeah, I’m pleased to see you too!”
Your partner is stung by your words, they didn’t want to come home to another row. And with more anger and contempt in their voice, they say:
“God, why are you so angry all the time?”
And then you blow and they go thermonuclear and the cycle goes on and on.
Usually until one of you storms off.
This is a negative cycle and it inevitably leads to a loss of connection with your partner.
Negative cycles between couples are common and the roles you play and the moves you make within it are predictable and habitual.
It’s a repeating pattern of negative behaviours, thoughts and feelings that cause distress and a feeling of disconnection.
Think of it as a dance.
And if you don’t get help with it…
…If you don’t learn how to break it and replace it with a healthy alternative…
…It usually gets worse and you’ll be doing the same version of it 40 years from now.
If your relationship lasts that long.
The best way to loosening the grip your negative cycle has on you is to understand it’s driven by vulnerable fears, longings and unfilled needs that both of you have.
Fears are usually in two areas:
- Fears about what your partner feels about you
- Fears you have about yourself in the relationship
A lot of the work I do with couples is helping them to identify their negative cycle and the parts they play within it.
I then help them to untangle it by exploring:
- Their role in the cycle
- Their fears and vulnerabilities that drive their behaviours
- Understanding their partners fears and vulnerabilities that trigger their behaviours
- Discovering what their needs and wants are in order to feel loved, safe and connected.
- Teaching them safer ways to express their feelings, needs, wants and emotions to each other. Ways which are proven to promote relational joy and connection.
The good news is that with help from me, a professional who understands how to break negative cycles and replace them with healthier tools of expression – you don’t have to keep repeating the same old painful, relationship destroying behaviours.
Disconnection between couples happens all the time. Even in the best relationships. It’s how you handle it that makes the difference.
If you feel your relationship is stuck in a “Doom Loop”, or if you feel your relationship is repeating the same negative patterns over and over again and nothing you’ve tried has worked to break the cycle…
…I can help.
For more information on the services I offer to couples click the links below:
Face to face couples counselling
Online couples counselling
Intensive two-day sessions click here
Bye for now