You’ve Just Been Through One Divorce — Learn How To Avoid Another One.
Divorce is a draining emotional and financial experience, for you and for your family.
That is why I advise my clients to learn as much as they can about how to avoid another divorce in the future. Some clients solve the problem by saying: ‘I know how to avoid another divorce — I am never getting married. Done with that.’ More often they say: ‘I want to make it better; I do want to avoid another divorce or failed relationship. I want a better family life for my children and myself.’
Jena wanted to try again. She met a delightful man and was seriously dating. She wanted to go the next step. She wanted to find commitment and marriage, but felt tremendous resistance. She had a real need to avoid the problems of her first marriage. At the Long Island Center for Marriage Counseling and Individual Therapy she learned about today’s topic: The Vicious Cycle. She used what she learned to move forward into a successful second marriage. She learned how to avoid the Vicious Cycle.
What is the Vicious Cycle in marriage?
The Vicious Cycle is the habitual, destructive cycle that couples fall into when they don’t understand or communicate. They don’t know how to understand each other. They don’t know how to communicate with each other. And so they cannot avoid the Vicious Cycle.
Typically in the Vicious Cycle one person is not getting enough of his or her needs met. He or she is feeling emotionally hurt, sad and alone. And so he or she acts critical. He or she becomes demanding or pursuing, usually in an angry tone. The other person reacts to the attack by either stonewalling, defending or distancing. As the second person moves back, the first person feels even more frustrated. He or she continues the attack. And so the saying goes: “The more she nags, the more he withdraws, and the more he withdraws, the more she nags.” Can you avoid that?
Does some aspect of the Vicious Cycle sound true in your relationship? I have had couples see me who have been dancing the dance of the Vicious Cycle for twenty or more years. It drains their hope, aliveness and laughter.
How Can You Avoid the Vicious Cycle In Your Next Serious Relationship?
What can you do to avoid that happening?
First, come to recognize what is going on in each person as the Vicious Cycle continues. Each person cocoons themselves in their view of the situation. They develop a story about how their own needs are not getting met, and how hopeless it is. Nick and Pam were in such a battle. He had developed the mindset that she was controlling and uncaring. That left him feeling alone and sad. She had developed the mindset that he was unloving and uncooperative. She was left lonely and longing for love. They continually set each other off. They each became stuck into their own mindsets and reaction patterns. And so the Vicious Cycle continued.
Second, find a way to “Step Into The Shoes” of the other person. See the Vicious Cycle from their point of view. I tell clients that “Stepping IntoThe Shoes” of the other person is like tasting someone else’s soup. Just take a sip in order to understand the other more. Once you can really empathize with your partner, you can much more easily avoid going into your side of the Vicious Cycle.
Third, determine to stop your part in the Vicious Cycle whenever you see it rear its ugly head. It is often a wrenching experience to pull back since you are sure you are right. After all, inside your cocoon you must be right. However, I promise, you will definitely find it worthwhile to learn to detach.
Fourth, learn to communicate differently. Emotional communication about how you are feeling and what you want is a very different kind of communication than Vicious Cycle communication. You need to focus on your deeper feelings of hurt, pain, aloneness, and fear – the feelings residing below your top layer of anger or withdrawal.
In the next blog entry, we will take a deeper look at how to engage in emotional communication with your partner, in order to bring the relationship to a deeper and more secure emotional bond of love and trust.
Please contact me with any questions or if you need help and want to avoid your next divorce.
Dr. Diane Kramer, Clinical Psychologist and Marital/Family Therapist