Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Applying the Cycle to Our Relationships

Before we move forward, let‘s talk more about the Cycle.

Most people who know about the Cycle associate it with family violence or abusive relationships, but I think it has some value in non-abusive relationships as well.

After all, negative patterns can show up in a relationship, even if nothing meets the legal definition of abuse.

Furthermore, we all have our own definitions of what ‘counts as abuse,’ and you know what? That’s fine.

Knowing what I know about the Opposites, I WILL add a little something for your consideration. Sometimes people in or around an abusive relationship have a hard time calling what they are experiencing, witnessing, or--in some cases--perpetrating as abuse. They tell themselves that they are misinterpreting things or worry about overreacting. They think…well, it‘s not THAT bad compared to what could be happening; others have it far worse. Or they try and convince themselves that the victim--even if THEY are the victim--has done something to deserve what they are getting. They may be blind to it because seeing it would obligate them to act on it, and so not seeing is far easier.

And sometimes it’s because people have an image in their head about what abusers or abused people should look like and that image looks nothing like a friend, co-worker, loved one, or the person they see in the mirror.

We now return to our scheduled topic, which is this:

A relationship doesn’t have to be abusive to be unhealthy. Heck, a relationship doesn’t even have to be unhealthy to hit a bad patch. Life happens to us all.

Understanding how the Cycle works can be helpful tool in such cases.

So if you’re finding yourself experiencing massive fights, icy silences, or other difficulties, followed by fantastic make-up sex and feelings of relief, exhilaration, and exultation, only to find yourself in the same position only worse less than a week later, it is very possible you are playing out the cycle.

The most common place I see this in non-abusive situations is where a relationship is nearing its natural conclusion, but one or both partners is not ready for it to end. The result is a break-up, followed by a make-up, followed by a period of tension and then another break-up.

Maybe they get back together again. Then they break-up again, but this time the time between the make-up and break up is shorter. A week instead of a month. A day or two instead of a week.

That doesn‘t seem unnatural to me. When you‘ve been together for a while, one or two (maybe even three) ‘practice break-ups’ before the real thing is normal.

The real nightmare is when a couple refuses to let go. They continue to break-up. And Make up. And break up again. Each break-up takes a little more out of them. Each make-up is less hopeful than the last.

Now the break-ups are closer and closer together. The fights are hours apart instead of days. The make-ups are no longer happening…instead one partner walks back through the door in sullen silence until it’s time to break-up or fight again.

It's a Relationship Death Spiral.

Some couples even lose the energy to break-up. Instead they live in a constant state of tension, taking on the grim and haunted look of exhausted soldiers in a hostile country. There’s no fighting to win anymore; it’s just going through the motions, hoping for the end, but unable to finish it themselves. The Cycle itself has turned to dust; all that’s left is two hollowed out husks, shackled to their own two-person Wheel of Pain.

Sounds crappy, no?

This is why it’s so important to recognize the Cycle. Remember what we know: It gets worse over time--the bad parts intensify, the good times disappear, and the cycle begins to happen faster.

Most importantly, it will not change by itself. Something needs to change in the relationship.

Finding yourself in a Cycle doesn’t mean you failed. It certainly doesn’t mean you aren’t working hard enough. It means that it is time to do something differently, and the earlier you recognize it and start acting the better.

It’s tempting to wait. Things aren’t that bad, we tell ourselves. Maybe they‘ll get better on their own.

Those thoughts are dangerous. The best time to act is always BEFORE things get worse.

There are huge advantages to acting early when we see evidence of the Cycle. The bad isn’t out of control. There are still be positives in the good times stage. We are travelling through the Cycle slowly enough that there is time to seek help, find balance, and regain perspective. It’s easier to step off a Merry Go Round than a Gravitron.

If the relationship is salvageable, you have enough energy, willingness to communicate, and goodwill towards one another to grow, build, and change instead of needing everything you have just to hold on.

If the relationship isn’t salvageable, well…energy, willingness to communicate, and goodwill come in handy in break-ups too. Ending a relationship can be sad, disappointing, and frustrating, but in the long term, a good break-up generates a lot more happiness than a bad relationship.

The Cycle is not an enemy. It is a messenger. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of it.

Most importantly, don’t be blind to it.

Because while the Cycle may not always be abusive, it does have at least one thing in common with abuse.

Choosing not to see it won’t make it go away.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

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