Robin talks about the spiral experience in relationships according to Imago relationship therapy during her couples’ intensive workshops in Long Island, New York. For more information on couples counseling, contact Robin today.
All relationships start off with a flood of good emotions, then couples begin to hit a wall when things get challenging. What Robin teaches is that this is a normal cycle, and in order to come out on the other side better, we must be aware and DO THE WORK to get to a place of real love and safety.
It all starts when you or your partner perceive a disconnect: in intimacy, in support, or in understanding of each other.
Then you notice that you don’t feel as close to or as attracted to your partner as you used to be. This makes you sad because you remember what it was like to be so giddy in love when you were first together.
You have a realization that something has gone wrong. At this point, you start to feel anxious. You begin to look for a reason or a scapegoat, for those negative feelings. In this case, your partner becomes the scapegoat. You start to look for what your partner is doing wrong or what he/she is neglecting to do:
They left the house without saying goodbye. They forgot to tell you they invited friends over for drinks tonight. They left dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher. They didn’t call you to tell you they’d be getting home late.
Now you have something to latch onto. You criticize and attack your partner. They did something wrong because of a flaw in their character. This becomes a power struggle.
When you’re in this state of looking for reasons why your partner is causing your unhappiness, you only see what they’re doing wrong. You ignore all the things your partner may be doing right.
What’s interesting about this is that science has shown that women subconsciously use criticism as a way to draw their partner in and as an indication to move closer. That’s not how a man sees complaining and criticism! When a woman criticizes, the man believes he’s failed in some way, and begins to feel hurt, ashamed, and misunderstood. This makes him angry with himself. But he doesn’t want to direct his anger at you, so he withdraws. He stops talking. He grows cold. He seems to ignore you. He may even leave the room or the house.
When a man withdraws, he’s often protecting you from his anger. But if he withdraws long enough and often enough, you don’t feel safe or connected. This again causes you to feel contempt. When you’re in a state of contempt, you believe they can no longer do anything right, because their actions aren’t just what’s wrong. THEY are wrong.
When you’re in a state of contempt, you also may say mean things, be sarcastic, or belittle them… Contempt is ugly. Once you start to feel it, it’s much more difficult to bring the relationship back. That’s because with contempt, you believe you’ve made up your mind about your partner, and it’s not good. They can’t do anything right. They can’t give you what you need. They’re flawed.
Now it’s just a matter of time before things fall apart. That’s why it’s so important to recognize EARLY ON if you’re falling into relationship failure and do the things that will reconnect with your partner, FAST.
How can you do that? You both must make the decision to recommit to your relationship with curiosity.
Rather than complain, criticize, or ask your your partner to stop doing things that annoy you, look for ways to add positives to your relationship. Ask questions on how your partner feels. Be curious on how they’re feeling as well. That is by far the most effective way to turn any relationship around. This will forge a stronger connection with your partner, knowing that you are both on the same page looking for more love, intimacy, and trust.
When you strengthen intimacy and connection, your entire relationship changes for the better.
The spiral experience in relationships is something you should be aware of from the start so when you feel that things are not going smoothly, you can know what to do to get back on track and move forward stronger together!