How We Affect Each Other
Couples often blame each other for the problems in their relationship, but the problems are often the result of a circular interaction. Each person’s behavior is the result of an action that preceded it and is also a trigger for the partner’s action that follows it. For example, a husband works late. The wife interprets his coming home late as lack of love for her so she withdraws emotionally and won’t allow touching. He then stays late at work again because of her withdrawal. Can you see the circular interaction in this example?
Couples also develop balance in the roles they assume. If one person is very responsible about keeping the house clean, the other one may be more casual or even sloppy. Michele Weiner-Davis in her book Divorce Busting compares this type of balancing to what happens when riding a tandem bicycle. If one person stops pedaling, the other one must do all the work. Again, this shows a circular interaction in which each is involved. Couples often get stuck in these patterns.
Changing Circular Interaction
A negative circular interaction can be changed when one person changes. For example the wife might view her husband’s lateness in coming home as his dedication to providing for her and the family; as evidence of his love. She changes her thinking and assumes the best about him and his actions. Her acceptance changes things. Of course it’s even better if both change and “pedal the bike” cooperatively.
In addition couples need to work at connecting with each other in positive ways. Often couples stop doing fun things together or stop being affectionate with each other because of a negative circular interaction. What they don’t realize is that the lack of these fun or affectionate behaviors increases and compounds the problems between them. Enjoyment in a relationship does much to help us forget the hurt or the differences.
Couples don’t realize that changes in behavior lead to changes in their positive feelings toward each other. Feelings don’t change first, in other words. What kinds of things do you want your partner to do that will show you that he/she cares? What kinds of things does your partner want you to do that will show him/her you care? What did each of you do when things were going well that you are no longer doing?
If we want love in our marriage we must purposely act in loving ways toward our partner. Give spontaneous hugs and kisses. Give compliments. Send cards and flowers. Spend fun time together. Go out together. Our feelings toward others don’t just happen. Our own actions and involvement with our partner shape our feelings. Therefore, if we “act loving” we will feel loving. If we give of ourselves to the other person we will feel more connection. In this way we create positive circular interaction.
“Do for others what you would like them to do for you.” Matt. 7:12 NLT
This article originally appeared on my Faith Notes blog