The person we most love and feel the safest with, is also the person that can bring us down into despair.  And it generally takes remarkably little to send us crashing down.  A slight change of facial expression, an off kilter tone, or careless remark may be all it takes.  It is the very connection with our partner that creates such vulnerability and potential for problems.  If misread, these signals escalate into conflicts that cause such destruction, it could lead to the end of the relationship.  However, if this connection is strengthened with safety and awareness, then true intimacy can be achieved.

Dr. Sue Johnson says when we blame our partners for the problems in our relationship, we are caught in the cycle of the blame game.  There are three basic cycles that all couples enter into called the demon dialogues. The first one is called “Find the bad guy.”   This is a mutual pattern of finding fault and blaming the other partner that effectively creates distance between the couples, blocking re-engaement and safety.  The second pattern is called “The Protest Polka” in which one partner reacts to (or protests) the loss of a sense of secure attachment we all need in a relationship.  This is when one parter reaches out in a negative way so that the other one steps back.  This cycle can continue endlessly: one partner is demanding and actively protesting the disconnection while the other is withdrawing, quietly protesting the implied criticism.  The third pattern is called the “Freeze and Flee” or the withdraw-withdraw pattern in which both partners shut down communication.  This usually happens after the Protest Polka has been happening for sometime, and both people step back to escape the pain of the despair.  This is a dangerous cycle because both partners are essentially giving up.

All of us get caught in one or more of these negative love interactions at some point in our intimate partnerships.  For some these are fleeting, but for others they become ingrained responses.  All it takes a hint of negativity from our lover to set off the demon dialogue.  Eventually, the toxic patterns can become so ingrained they undermine the whole of the relationship and block all attempts at repair and reconnection.

I can help you with these negative dance cycles and help to bring you and your partner back into a harmonious waltz of intimacy and communication.

Here are some tips:

Try to recognize that you are caught in a pattern of the demon dialogue when you are in the blame and withdraw cycles described above.

1. Name it as “the cycle” and see that no one has to be the bad guy: the dynamic is the demon, not your partner. Join together against the demons.

2. Rather than blame the other and seeing what they are doing wrong, try to slow down and look at what your moves in the dance are. You have to see the whole picture. See the polka as the enemy, rather than our partner.