Couples get stuck in how they relate in their relationship and no matter how they try to get unstuck, to meet their needs and to create a satisfying relationship, they just get more and more buried in dissatisfaction.

The negative cycle of relating, their stuckedness, is created because partners bring childhood wounds into their relationship that are reopened in their interactions. The primary aim of relationships is to heal each partner of these wounds so they can break the cycle. Remember, partners fall in love with each other because they are unconsciously attracted to the other’s potential to heal them.

Partners can heal each other as they have the ability to create situations that reopen the old wounds as they have similar characteristics of their partners’ caretakers thus hurting them the same way as their caretakers hurt them when they were young. This provides an opportunity at being healed in that here is another chance to get what one didn’t get growing up.

When partners are focused on “getting their own needs met” they go about it the only way they know how. They use their usual defense mechanisms they developed when they were young. These are immature and inadequate to cope with the complexity of an adult relationship and its contexts. To make matters worse, the defense mechanisms have hardened into character defenses meaning that they guide and inform its owner’s coping, views, and perceptions. It is these that partners use in their interactions and not their real selves.

Partners get stuck in a negative cycle, reopening wounds for each other, as they interact with each other with their character defenses which are polarized to ensure the opportunity for healing!

Let me show you how this may play out. Let’s say that growing up Partner A had a parent that was absent (mentally and emotionally absent count as well). They learned to cope with this by making sure the parent was there (fusing) so they became clingy, sought negative attention, got into trouble or were really good. As they became an adult, these behaviors translate into being an overfunctioner, demanding, controlling or critical.

Partner B had a parent growing up that tended to be overly involved, to overparent, or was very critical, so they developed defense mechanisms of isolating to create breathing space for themselves. As adults these behaviors might translate into a tendency to be a workaholic, overly involved in personal interests, becoming involved in outside relationships, or being passive-aggressive.

Partner A and Partner B will attract each other because they have developed opposite character defenses that have the ability to reopen wounds for each other. Partner A will now experience Partner B as uncaring, distant, selfish, not involved (just as they experienced their partner growing up – they feel abandoned) and so will go out of their way to engage them. This in return will make Patner B want to run away more (as they feel smothered) to create more space as they are experiencing Partner A as nagging, demanding, controlling, or critical reminding them of their parent growing up.

The partners will unconsciously search for a mate to recreate their childhood wounds get a different outcome this time and thus get healed.

You can use this information to figure out your dynamics and break your negative cycle of interaction. First, figure out your childhood wounds and have your partner do the same. This sounds easier than it is. This stuff is hidden! So, search your souls and figure this out.

Once you know how you were each wounded, figure out what your character defenses are and how you use them in your relationship (the opposite ways you guys deal with each other). This is your dynamic. Your wounds are interacting with each other, they are being triggered by each other.

This is what makes the negative cycle of interaction that you are so familiar with: You are repeating the same argument over and over and dealing with it the same way you always have, without getting much resolution or satisfaction.

To break this cycle, change your dynamics, all you have to do is do something different than the usual. Give your partner an alternate outcome to the argument. If you are not sure how to give a different response or give your partner what they need, ask them.

Ask your partner to tell you how they feel when you behave from your character defense place and how they would like you to behave instead. By doing this consistently you’ll be giving your partner the alternate outcome to the wounding scenarios thus healing their wounds. Keep in mind that when you do this you are also inviting your partner to behave differently so your needs are met in return.

Whether you feel abandoned or smothered in your relationship, your partner feels the other. You invite each other’s behaviors and are stuck until one of you takes responsibility to stop the cycle by giving your partner a different outcome and thus starting the healing cycle. Be the one to do something different and start healing today!!

Happy Healing!

~ Your MetroRelationship™ Assignment

Have a discussion with your partner about your histories and your feelings growing up and how your relationship is replicating those for you. Give your partner behavior change requests that will give you a different outcome to the recurring wounding scenarios thus resolving them and healing yourself. Do the same for them.

Author's Bio: 

Emma K. Viglucci, LMFT has been in the mental health field in varying capacities for the past 20+ years. She is the Founder and Director of a psychotherapy and coaching practice specializing in working with busy professional and entrepreneurial couples who are struggling getting on the same page and feeling connected. We help couples create a radiant and authentic relationship and meaningful life by becoming a strong partnership and increasing their connection, intimacy, and fun. Emma is the creator of the MetroRelationship™ philosophy and the Successful Couple Strategy™.