Breaking the Same Argument Cycle in Marriage Donít let arguments become a round-and-round cycle of blame. Use these tips to end the cycle successfully. BY LISA BROOKES KIFT, MFT
If you're having the same argument over and over, it's time to look at the situation differently.
“ Infants and small children that do not feel physically or emotionally safe with their primary caregivers often become adults who struggle in a variety of ways in their intimate relationships.”
If youíre like many couples that argue about the same things over and overóand this is a cycle youíd like to interruptótake into consideration that these issues may not really be the problem. Itís more likely the issues will be about long held belief systems from your family of origin that shaped your views of self and others. The more secure you felt during that time, the less likely you would get emotionally reactive and have it triggered in your marriage.
Yes. Your past does matter. A clue to this puzzle lies in identifying your attachment style. This could answer some fundamental questions about why you and your spouse get on the "merry-go-round" in the ways you do.
There is a lot of research out there about how early interactions with caregivers set up "internal working models" of expectations of how others will behave towards them in the future. Infants and small children that do not feel physically or emotionally safe with their primary caregivers often become adults who struggle in a variety of ways in their intimate relationships.
What does this have to do your marriage? In recent years there have been newer models developed to describe the way adults in intimate relationships relate to one another. There are four types of adult attachment styles, but keep in mind that many people could be classified as an overlap of several.
Do any of these resonate with you and come up in your marriage? Where do you see your spouse?
Secure-Autonomous: You believe relationships are generally safe. You are comfortable with emotions and intimacy. You are optimistic about your marriage lasting and bringing you satisfaction. Avoidant: You devalue relationships and may feel as if you donít need them. You are uncomfortable with intimacy and vulnerability. You struggle with trusting people. Ambivalent: You fear and often worry about being abandoned. You are anxious and have a hard time coping when youíre emotionally triggered. You feel like a victim. Unresolved/Disorganized: You struggle to function, control your emotions and may dissociate or "space out."
If you think back to your childhood and what you know about your experience with your primary caregivers, does it make any sense to you that you might relate to your spouse, the person you ultimately seek security with, in a similar way? Consider the things you and your partner argue about. Look deeper. What meaning might you both be making about the issues or behaviors at hand? Do they say something about your value? Do they say something about how much your spouse respects the marriage?
Always check your assumptions. Perhaps youíre incorrect. Are you both able to turn toward one another or do one or both of you withdraw? Do one or both of you loudly protest when youíre upset? Is there a high level of conflict?
The argument isnít usually about the argument. The myriad of things that couples argue about arenít actually what fundamentally drive couples in distress. According to Sue Johnson, PhD and author of Hold Me Tight, itís "a primary fear of rejection and abandonment." If you are having a disagreement with your spouse, try to get to the underlying emotions that often get covered by the surface complaints. For example, what does your spouse believe your behavior means about him/her or the relationship?
Research around the neuroplasticity of the brain by Daniel Siegel, MD suggests that insecure styles of attachment can be rewired to experience more security in a loving, supportive relationship with another. Your internal working models can actually shift as your brain forges new neural pathways of experience. Together, you and your spouse can stop the argument merry-go-round and heal through one another, successfully.
Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of Love and Life Toolbox, one of the original therapist-created resources for marriage, relationship and emotional health available on the web.