Have you noticed negative relationship patterns showing up in your love life?
Perhaps it’s the same argument over and over again that ends with one of you sleeping on the couch.
On one of my webinars, a woman described her frustration with her unhealthy relationship pattern like this:
“I have been with a guy 7 years and we have broken up and gotten back together 200 times…
Our negative relationship pattern is that when he’s not happy with how things are going, he breaks up with me, and then I chase him and beg him to get back together… Our private joke is “You’re the person I want to argue with for the rest of my life! That’s how you know it’s true love…”
We’re not happy when we’re not together, so how do we change our relationship pattern after so long?”
Usually, by the time a couple contacts me for relationship coaching, one partner is becoming increasingly insecure and demanding and the other is feeling increasingly trapped and withdrawing…
…and if their recurring relationship issues are left unchecked, often the only way they deal with the pain of emotional disconnection is by shutting down.
When this happens the relationship enters (what I refer to as) an Ice Age… with both partners in self-protection mode pretending that they don’t feel or need anything. Left unattended, the relationship is doomed to freeze to death.
Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to thaw out the love and create a deep bond if both parties are willing to do the work together.
HOW TO CHANGE UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIP PATTERNS:
You can change relationship patterns quickly and permanently.
I regularly witness years of relationship conditioning undone in an hour of intentional conversation.
Few things are as emotionally exquisite to witness than two people doing the deep work of breaking longtime relationship patterns.
Here’s the five-step process I take my couples through to break negative relationship patterns:
STEP #1: Notice What Triggers Your Negative Relationship Pattern.
First, become aware of what external circumstances and internal experiences trigger the start-up of your negative pattern so that you can catch it early on and stop it from escalating into a fight.
What happens just before you get triggered?
STEP #2: Discover How You Invite Conflict.
A common reason why we end up in unhealthy relationship patterns is because we cannot see that we actually invite and encourage the pattern by the things we say and do to our partner.
If we were aware of this, we wouldn’t keep doing them and ending up in arguments.
When each of you sees how you perpetuate your pattern, you can make new choices about what you say and do in the heat of the moment, and steer the conversation into new, safer waters.
This step is made easier with a coach to guide you.
STEP #3: Positive Intentions.
Your partner’s intention in conflict is almost never to hurt you, but rather a reaction to their own fears or pain. However, in the heat of the moment, it can be hard to remember that…
So, when the two of you are feeling connected, I recommend sitting together and sharing what you’re thinking and feeling when you get triggered.
See if you discover the positive outcome that you’re attempting to achieve (albeit in an unhealthy way) by entering into the pattern.
STEP #4: Name The Pattern.
A switch seems to flick ON in our brain when we name something.
It becomes OURS to own. I’ve named my motorcycles, cats, cars, guitars and even my lovers (with nicknames).
When we name our patterns, we own them and can recognize them more easily.
My partner and I have a pattern we named the “Knife Dance” because I felt like I was begin stabbed in the back and she referred to feeling like I had stabbed her through the heart.
The name gave us a common language with which to better understand our pattern and interrupt it.
STEP #5: Fight The Pattern, Not Each Other.
Having now identified, understood, interrupted and named your destructive relationship pattern, the final step is to stand together and fight the onset of the pattern instead of fighting each other.
Being on the same team during conflict is so much more fun!
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If you’d like some help resolving your patterns with your partner, you can apply for relationship coaching.
With careful guidance, you can work out and end your unhealthy relationship patterns for good.