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Recognizing negative cycles in a couple’s interaction

24.02.2022 klo 19:54 - Produced by Family Federation of Finland
When things aren’t working well in a relationship, both partners react to the lack of connection in their own way. This can easily lead to a vicious cycle that may be difficult to get out of. It’s important to learn to recognize these cycles and to try to avoid getting stuck in them.

When things are not going well between you two, how do you usually react? Find the behaviors in the list below that best describe your reaction. Share them with your partner.

  • I complain
  • I criticize
  • I blame you or point out your mistakes
  • I yell
  • I get angry, I blow up
  • I pressure you to adopt my point of view
  • I express my frustration in an angry way
  • I express my disapproval
  • I see you as the problem
  • I demand your attention
  • I tell you how you need to change
  • I issue threats
  • I provoke you
  • I leave the situation
  • I stay calm and justify my actions to you
  • I shut you out
  • I stop the conversation and start doing something else
  • I don’t listen
  • I change the subject
  • I defend myself and prove to you that you’re wrong
  • I say you’re “hysterical”
  • I get lost in my own thoughts
  • I retreat into my shell like a clam
  • I become distant
  • I refuse to talk
  • I give up and withdraw
  • I say something mean to make you stop talking

Outline a negative cycle that you think is typical in your relationship. Take your time and use simple action words (verbs such as “withdraw”, “pressurize”, etc.) to describe the way you and your partner act. Try to fill in the gaps in the text:

  • The more I ____________, the more you ____________
  • And then, the more you____________, the more I ____________, and this leads to our negative cycle.

Compare your answers and, based on them, try to compile a shared version that you both think sounds right.


For discussion:

What do you think your partner thinks of you at a moment like this? After answering yourself, check what their answer is.

Has this negative cycle always been a part of your relationship, or did it start at a specific point?

Have you learned to act the way you do in a previous relationship with someone else? Has this approach been helpful to you?

Was this helpful for you?

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