If you have been in a love relationship you can understand these moments of sensitivity.
All it takes is a slight turning way of the head or a flip, careless remark. There is no closeness without this sensitivity.
If our connection with our mate is safe and strong, we can deal with these moments even closer.
But when we do not feel safe and connected these moments are like a spark in a tinder forest.
They set fire to the whole relationship.
We can get stuck in three basic patterns of behavior. The dead end pattern of mutual blame keeps a couple miles apart, blocking re-engagement and a safe haven. Many couples lapse into this pattern for short period, however it is difficult to maintain over time.
For many, there is a notion of "find the bad guy" which is the brief prelude to the most common dance of distress.
This is more of a demand-withdraw pattern of behavior or a criticize-defend.
Most accurately a form of protest against the loss of a sense of a secure attachment that we all need in a relationship.
There is one other form of protest which occurs which is the Freeze and Flee, which is when each or one feels so hopeless they begin to give up for the safety of attachment in the relationship and they put their own emoticons and needs in the deep freeze, leaving only numbness and distance. Both partners step back to escape hurt and despair. Suddenly no one is participating and this becomes the most dangerous dance of all.
All of us get caught in one of these negative interactions at some point in our love relationships. For some these are brief, though risky, and challenges secure connections. For some who are less secure these can become habitual response and eventually toxic patterns can become so ingrained and permanent that they totally undermine the relationship, blocking all attempts at repair and re-connection.
We have only two ways of protecting ourselves and holding on to our connection with our partners when we do not feel safe and responded to. One route is to avoid engagement, that is to numb our emotions, to shut down and deny our attachment needs. The other is to listen to our anxiety and fight for recognition and response. We can learn new ways of asking for our needs to be met when emotional safety is lost.
Three basic ways of recognizing the negative cycles I suggest is:
- Stay in present and focus on what is happening between you right now.
- Look at the circle of criticism that spins both of you around. There is no true start to a circle.
- Consider the circle, the dance, as your enemy, not each other.
- See the consequences of not breaking this circle and of being stuck.