“We finish each other’s sentences.” When you first start dating, this is the highest form of bragging. The two of you are on the same wavelength. Only true soul mates can practically read each other’s minds.
Unfortunately, as time passes, that “finishing each other’s sentences” claim can take a toxic turn.
When a couple is stuck in a destructive relationship loop, it can feel like you’re both reading from a script. You know in advance what the other is going to say — and not in that magical way. Instead, the routine of your interactions is irritating and fraught with resentments. This loop is an important sign that relationship work needs to be done sooner rather than later.
What is a Destructive Relationship Loop?
A “destructive relationship loop” refers to a recurring pattern of behavior or interaction in a relationship that causes harm and prevents the resolution of issues.
Loops of all kinds are a normal part of relationships. How you talk to each other, your sexual style, financial decisions…all of these and many more examples from the daily rhythm of your connection. Many of these loops are comforting and productive. The problem with such patterns is that they can shift in a negative direction without your initial awareness. One day, it feels like you look around and see/feel the following problems:
- Difficulty opening up: you may not feel emotionally safe. There may be patterns of avoidance or having your opinions dismissed.
- Secrets are kept: this is a form of lying or relational dishonesty. Trust issue are at play. You may be opening up to someone else but keeping that fact from your partner.
- Lack of emotional support: something major happens and who do you tell first? Building off the first two symptoms above, you may tend to look elsewhere for validation and appreciation.
- Waiting for the other to change: You’re unhappy about some behaviors and patterns. Rather than initiate a conversation, you tell yourself that your partner must change first.
- Fighting over “little” things: Rather than directly address major concerns, you chronically squabble over issues that feel minor.
- Loss of intimacy: From your sex life to holding hands, it’s all started to fade.
- Behavior verging on disrespect: The “jokes” get meaner. The pet names seem like insults. Your self-esteem is plummeting.
How to Break Free From a Destructive Relationship Loop
For starters, it is absolutely essential that you identify abuse if it exists. Destructive relationship patterns can be ugly. There’s a big difference between that and abuse. If you are being victimized, physically or emotionally, you must find the safest way possible to seek help. Short of that urgent scenario, the following self-help suggestions may prove helpful.
Change Your Self-Talk
Start with yourself. Start within yourself. What does your inner monologue sound like? Are you sad or guilty or self-blaming? Reframe your self-talk with intentional self-compassion and acceptance. Try to identify your own problematic behaviors and triggers. Understanding your reactions and patterns is the first step to making changes.Things are bad and criticizing yourself will not contribute to positive change.
Open the Lines of Communication
A significant part of negative relationship patterns is unhealthy communication. Do your part to re-connect. The goal here is to be honest, direct and steady. Calm, face-to-face interaction signals that you prioritize the way you connect as well as what you are sharing. Discuss the destructive patterns you’ve both observed and express how they make you feel.
Turn Blame Into Understanding
If you and your partner agree that change is necessary, try to focus on understanding each other’s role in the problem. Blame can stall the process. Compassionate, patient engagement will make it safe again to be vulnerable and share feelings openly. Instead of blaming each other, focus on expressing how certain behaviors make you feel. Using “I” statements, like “I feel hurt when…” can be more effective than starting sentences with “You always…”.
Keep Careful Company
There are times when everyone needs reliable, nonjudgmental support. Surround yourselves with people who share and champion your relationship goals. Having people around who can share your concerns without maligning either of you is crucial.
Jealousy can be both a symptom and a perpetuating factor of destructive relationship loops. When unchecked, jealousy can exacerbate mistrust, create distance, and lead to other negative behaviors such as control, surveillance, or passive-aggressiveness. Occasional feelings of jealousy are natural and can be addressed constructively. However, when jealousy becomes chronic and starts affecting the relationship’s health, it’s crucial to take proactive steps to break the cycle.
It’s Easier Getting Stuck Than UnStuck
If you and your partner are open to couples counseling, it is a good sign that healing is possible. In fact, it can be equally as positive if you each opted to first try individual therapy. Whether you choose in-person or video chat, getting unstuck grows more likely with some outside help.
Your counselor is an unbiased guide to help you recognize unproductive or dysfunctional relationship patterns. From there, you’re better positioned to discover fresh, productive approaches. Please read more about Couples Counseling and reach out to set up a consultation soon. Let us help you begin the process of breaking free and growing closer.
Getting Started With Couples Counseling in Lakewood & Longmont Colorado
We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can schedule your appointment via phone, email, or the contact page on our website. We offer both in-person and online counseling. We’re open to whichever option you feel more comfortable with. We look forward to hearing from you!
Self Care Impact Counseling envisions a new age of counseling for adolescents, adults, couples & groups that makes a REAL difference with core values of GROWTH | BALANCE | COMPASSION | INNER HARMONY.