What feels like the end of the line, a roadblock, is often an indication of a broken part of a whole: a habit, a pattern, a dance; a behavior that is so well-practiced, so mastered, that it has a life of its own. In fact, this negative dance owns you and your relationship.
You both know what’s coming. You both know it’s not going to fix anything. The ‘dance’… it’s got to go.
Name the ‘dance’. Call your own bulls#!t.
Change begins with recognition that there is a dynamic that’s not working for you AND identifying YOUR behavior that facilitates the cursed dance between the two of you. We say your behavior because we cannot change other people—we can barely change ourselves.
Identify the emotion-behavior pattern that is not working for you.
If you keep doing something that causes you pain, it might be a (childhood?) behavior that served a useful purpose (security?) at one time, but now is wreaking havoc on your well-being or on your relationship.
When I feel X, I do Y. Examples:
Identify the source of behavior
Once you identify a behavior that is no longer serving its purpose ask yourself where you have felt this feeling before. Do you feel it at work? Did you see it in family or origin relationships?
Take withdrawal as an example. At one point in your life this behavior was helpful, it kept you out of your parents quarrels. Now, when you withdraw, your partner complains that you are not present or available when they need you.
Watch out for the pattern.
Now that you have acknowledged the feeling and matched it with the output or behavior, observe when it happens. At first, you might not realize it is happening until after the episode. That’s ok. You gained awareness after the moment played out. You also noted the feeling that led to the behavior. Now you are aware of your contribution to the negative cycle. Next time you might gain this same awareness the moment it plays out.
Later, watch how others respond to the episode. Often the reaction by those around you will result in their own negative pattern of behavior. Now you are seeing the dance of the negative cycle. Once you observe how the negative cycle can play out you can see how and when you can do something different.
Replace the dysfunctional old behaviors with new.
Rinse and repeat.
Continue watching out for your old ‘friend’. Don’t get discouraged if you see it return—it took a long time to develop this habit and it’ll take a while to build a new one instead.