Is Your Relationship Stuck in a Rut?

by Sheila Kreifels, LMFT

 Is your relationship “stuck in a rut” because you have the same argument over and over and over again?”  Do you say to yourself, “Here we go again” and “If only my partner would change or see things my way, our relationship would improve?” If this sounds like you, those thoughts may be helping you to be a part of  the problem.

There are many typical patterns of interaction that are observable in couples. These patterns help to maintain the balance within the relationship. The three most common patterns are: Pursuer-Distancer – one person approaches the other person avoids.  Blamer -Placatar – one person blames and criticizes and the other person wants to avoid conflict  and therefore, accommodates and accepts responsibility for the other’s displeasure.  Overfunctioner-Underfunctioner – one partner is overly responsible at her own expense while the other partner is not responsible and allows the partner to take care of him.

The first step to becoming unstuck is to identify your pattern of behavior.  Secondly, making your relationship change requires that YOU make a behavioral change.  My father once said to me, “You’re mom’s been trying to change me for 25 years and it still hasn’t worked.”  A common mistake for many couples is that they  both struggle to change their partner, which maintains the “stuck” pattern of arguing over the same problem.  It is a circular dance that results in power struggles and a block to intimacy, producing no winners.  Attempting to change your partner is a form of control and manipulation that simply does not work. There are many books on the market to provide you with new interaction skills to try.

Thirdly, remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  Therefore, if you make the choice to interact differently, you will get a new result.  For example, Mrs. J. says, “In our last fight, I told my husband he was a lousy lover and we haven’t made love since that fight.  I criticize him a lot because he never listens and just keeps clicking the channel changer.”  Mrs. J’s criticism prevents her even further from getting what she wants.  What would happen if instead of being a blamer, Mrs. J says, “Honey, I really want our love life to be spectacular.  I guess it’s an expectation I have, but I am not sure how to improve it and I need your help.  Do you think we could get one of those better sex videos?”  Which would you be more likely to respond to in a positive manner?  Not only is Mrs. J not blaming, but Mr. J will not likely placate. For every new action, there is a new reaction.

 It is important to listen to yourself.  Realize the impact that you are having on your relationship and the role that you play in your relationship. Changing your own behavior makes you feel empowered.  Trying to change someone else and feeling “stuck” makes you feel powerless.  Choose power by changing the only person you have any real control over – YOURSELF.

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