Communication – The Key to Keeping Your Relationship Healthy

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Communication Technique Overcomes the Cycle of Surprise, Reaction and Resentment

All relationships can be challenging at times. If you are in a relationship with a partner you most likely realize that it involves challenges. Living with a partner can be an exciting journey full of positive experiences. Relationships can also fall into a vicious cycle of surprise, reaction, and resentment. The key to overcoming what is often a vicious cycle is open and positive communication.

Communication will help you avoid getting stuck in a vicious cycle by learning to recognize what’s taking place at a personal level. If both people in the relationship can communicate and understand the other person’s feelings, the relationship can be a fantastic, healthy experience for both partners.

Let’s go over the steps of the cycle.

SURPRISE:

While surprises in a relationship are often fun or unexpected delights, repeated surprises can be viewed as upsets or erratic behavior. Often this behavior in a person can be viewed as inconsistent, erratic, undependable, and unpredictable. Unexpected behaviors can leave the other partner feeling shocked and confused.

One of our clients shared this example: "I sent my husband to the store for orange juice and he came home with a patio furniture set he found on sale - and of course no orange juice! We already had perfectly good and almost new patio furniture!" Living with a partner sometimes involves this sort of surprise or seemingly irrational behavior. It is vital that you to learn how to control your reaction to the behavior. How you communicate when surprised can make the situation better or worse!

REACTION:

Life with a surprising partner can be overwhelming because of an unending stream of surprises. You can find yourself constantly reacting to their latest unexpected behavior. Some couples talk about feeling like there are so many mini-crises each day, all they do is exchange negative reactions! One partner feels surprised and upset while the other partner feels attacked and defensive.

The surprised partner can make a simple request that triggers an emotional firestorm. What they didn’t understand was their partner was already feeling overwhelmed by life and a simple request was too much to handle. The key to breaking out of this cycle of reaction is to stop the anxiety that goes along with it. For the family unit to return to harmony, you have to find a way to diminish anxiety through positive, open communication. Look for ways to preempt the cycle of reactivity by being aware of what triggers resentment.

RESENTMENT:

Resentment starts to build as both partners experience the exchange of pain in the form of disappointment, criticism, defensive responses and anger.

For example it’s common for one partner to believe that it’s easier to do all the work by themselves. It seems it’s the only way to make sure there are no surprises and to guarantee the work gets done. If you want it done right, do it yourself! Right?

Wrong! While this approach may seem to work for a while it will ultimately lead to destructive resentment in the relationship. What happens is the exciting partner – having no idea they are doing less and less – becomes less helpful while the "I'll do it myself" partner is burdened with doing nearly everything.

It will then be easy to view the excited partner as helpless, useless and having a life of doing nothing, something the other partner can only dream about! They become increasingly resentful and the adventurous partner remains clueless. If they become aware of the resentment they often don’t understand where it’s coming from. To them it appears that everything’s getting done just fine!

Use the Three C’s Technique to Break the Cycle!

Hopefully, by recognizing the cycle of surprise, reaction and resentment, you and your partner can break out of it. We regularly see this pattern when we work with couples. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that’s vicious and can destroy relationships by eroding the foundations of trust and dependability.

The key to overcoming the downward cycle, as it is in any relationship, is good, open communication. In our clinic we use the three C’s technique as a powerful communication tool. The three C’s are Connect, Correct then Connect again. Here are the details:

  1. Connect - when you connect first with gratitude and praise your partner will be receptive and not defensive. Defensiveness is the enemy of good communication!

  2. Correct - focus on a single incident while being specific and quick in your delivery. Use a neutral and matter-of-fact tone of voice. Corrections should offer directions.

  3. Connect again - using praise and hope for the future cite something positive and uplifting or offer a gesture of kindness like a gentle touch or a quick peck on the cheek, to reconnect with your partner.

By maintaining good communication with your partner, and keeping your focus positive, you can work together to manage surprises in a relationship and keep them from causing a full blown relationship crisis.