Are You Stuck in a Negative Cycle? 4 Ways to Get Unstuck

Are You Stuck in a Negative Cycle? 4 Ways to Get Unstuck 

Have you ever been stuck in a negative cycle with your partner? Couples therapist Michele Scheinkman defines a negative cycle as a relationship impasse where each person is triggered by something the other person says or does. Each person is not simply triggered, they respond in a way that further triggers their partner. The husband who is late to dinner triggers his spouse’s insecurity. The wife defends herself by attacking the husband’s motivations. This results in the husband protecting himself by shutting down and withdrawing. These negative cycles are like a dance the partners engage in. One movement in a certain direction pushes the other person in another direction. Most couples get so stuck in their negative dance they need help from a trusted friend or therapist to help them see their role in the cycle and direction on how to get out. With the right perspective and motivation, any couple can work on their relational dance. A negative cycle of distance and disconnection can evolve into a positive cycle of connection and intimacy. 

Here are 4 ways to get out of the negative cycle  

Show compassion  

When we are triggered by our partner, it is difficult to think about the situation in a rational manner. Our partner’s behavior can easily ignite the “fight or flight” response. It’s easy to see your partner in the worst possible light when they’ve done something that has triggered you. One way to get out of the negative cycle is to slow down and try to see the situation from your partner’s perspective. What might they be feeling? Did they really mean what they said? Instead of focusing on who’s right and who’s wrong, focus on the fact that there are two imperfect people doing the best they can in a difficult situation.   

Team up against the cycle  

Once you and your partner agree that you tend to fall into a negative cycle, you can team up against the cycle. As heated as the cycle can be, it does not define your relationship. It is something external that is having an impact on your relationship. Some partners label the negative cycle and this helps them see it as something external to their relationship. My partner and I call it our “awkward dance”. I feel insecure by something she does and I shut down. She perceives me shutting down as abandoning her which results in her feeling more guarded and sharper with her words. This in turn leads to more hurt feelings and further withdrawal. We have learned to see the first signs of this negative cycle and humorously refer to it as the awkward dance. This helps us team up against the cycle and take control of our relationship. 

See it as an opportunity for growth 

Being in a relationship is hard work! Our partners are like mirrors that reflect back to us our flaws, weaknesses and warts. When we get stuck in our negative cycle, we are usually triggered by things that evoke unresolved issues from our childhood. Taking the time to understand why we get triggered and how that’s connected to our past will help us work through old wounds and establish healthier patterns for the future.

Practice Repair  

There’s a myth out there that good couples never fight. According to John Gottman, fighting is inevitable in a relationship. Even the best couples scream at each other, stonewall and get critical and defensive from time to time. The key to a great, emotionally connected relationship is the practice of repair. Repair refers to the process of acknowledging the conflict, reestablishing connection and working through the issue. Repair is not something that happens once or twice a year. It is something couples work at on a weekly (even daily) basis. When couples repair, it reinforces the message that no matter what they face, they are committed to not giving up on the relationship. 


Counseling can give you tools to create a thriving relationship

Every relationship can benefit from couple’s counseling. Couple’s counseling is not just for relationships at the brink of falling apart. Couple’s counseling can help any partnership that needs help navigating conflict. A skilled couple’s therapist can guide you in identifying the sources of conflict and help you develop the skills you need to improve your communication! You can also work on specific goals that will help you and your partner establish patterns of emotional and sexual connection that can improve the overall quality of your relationship. If you are struck in conflict with your partner and would like help getting unstuck, please give us a call at the Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch. We would love to help you cultivate a happy and meaningful relationship with your partner. 

Begin Counseling in Katy, TX 

If you are ready to improve your relationship one of the therapists at The Center at Cinco Ranch can help! We provide couple’s counseling as well as other services. To begin counseling in Katy, TX follow these three steps:

  1. Contact our office to set up an appointment or to get more information  couples counseling 
  2. Meet with one of our skilled therapists
  3. Find ways to thrive in your relationship!

Other Therapy Services We Offer

Here at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch we offer counseling services for people of all ages including: women’s issues, treatment for anxietytrauma counselingcounseling for kids, counseling for young adults, teen counseling, eating disorder treatment,  depression treatment, family therapy, and group counseling