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Cycles of Conflict

The Repeating Negative Cycle

Most couples have a relatively predictable pattern of negative interactions that gets triggered in conflict.  You may even be able to write the script of the next argument.  One of you complains, asks for something, criticizes or snaps impatiently.  The other reacts with defensiveness, or avoidance, or even angry counter-attack.  Sometimes one or both feels they are getting nowhere and withdraw in silence, or stomp out of the room slamming doors.  Sometimes it escalates even worse.


However your pattern works, it usually erupts at the worst possible times when life is most complicated and stressful.  And when the cycle gets going, it takes over your relationship, escalating seemingly out of control…and you are never able to solve the problem that you started with.


Emotional Vulnerability Drives the Cycle


In the midst of this cycle it is nearly impossible to see that each of you actually wants something softer or more tender from the other, but it is hard to be aware of it in the moment much less to directly and vulnerably ask for.  You may be looking for connection, support, help, reassurance, or just to know you matter.  You may want them to know you are hurting and want something to change. But that message is lost in the escalating cycle of conflict.


The solution is for each of you to understand how your hurt feelings trigger and drive how you respond to your partner in ways that perpetuate, and escalate the cycle of conflict. 


Northern Illinois Men's Counseling has helped countless men do their part to slow down and see how their negative pattern works and takes over.  With support and guidance, men are able to change their steps in the cycle and shift to more authentic and connected interaction that be can lead to closeness, understanding and a resolution to problems.

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