1. Watch for the Whirlwind
One of the most destructive elements that cause disconnection in relationships are negative cycles, fueled by negative emotion, that have now taken a life of their own. The cycle/pattern is the harvest from seeds (cumulative: missteps, missed opportunities, hurts, wounds etc.) that we have sown long ago.
“A person reaps what he or she sows” (Galatians 6:7-9)
The most common pattern is where one partner is typically pursuing in an angry or critical manner, (underneath they are really protesting the disconnection), where the other is withdrawing and going away (underneath they are protesting the implied criticism). The more one pursues, the other withdraws, and round and round they go.
So whatever you call it, a crazy cycle, a negative dance or a pernicious pattern, it all points to a repeated sequence of events fueled by negative emotion, initially outside of our conscious awareness, that gets in the way of intimacy and connection.
We have literally “sowed the wind and now reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). The day could change, the content or what we are fighting about can change but the cycle typically remains the same.
Keep watch and don’t let the Whirlwind rob your relationship from joy, intimacy and connection.
2. To Keep your Relationships Intact it is Better to Respond Rather than React
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
What do we do in moments of conflict? What do we do when our partner blasts us with hurtful verbal barbs which are fueled by their hard and hot emotions such as rage, anger and frustration? Do we attack back? Do we repay evil with evil or insult with insult?
I get it, we all have brains which are geared for war, at least from a neuroscience perspective. We have a nervous system that is constantly ready for fight, flight or freeze. Therefore, it is natural for us to be hurt and go into fight mode when someone treats us unfairly or comes at us with hard and hot emotions and reactive tendencies. But we are not just “natural” anymore. We do not have to allow the limbic system and our emotional brain to have the last word. The Spirit within, who always chooses life rather than death, empowers us to be self-controlled and to respond with love. Therefore:
Colossians 3:8-10 (my paraphrased version) “Let us choose, by the power of the Spirit, to rid ourselves of all these hard and hot reactive emotions and actions in our closest relationships such as: anger, rage, malice along with its practices of slander, and filthy (In the Greek- filthy can literally mean-“shame-filled”) language from our lips. Let us not lie (Greek- Lie- “speak untruths”) to each other, since we have taken off our old selves with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankl
3. Soft and Slow Makes the Relationship Grow, Hard and Fast Makes the Relationship Crash
“A gentle (tender or soft) answer turns away wrath (anger-fury), but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1)
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another” (Eph. 4:31-32)
A gentle (tender or soft) answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger. Our tone and how fast or slow we start conversations (otherwise known as prosody), has a huge part to play in how our conversations end up and thus our feeling of connection or disconnection.
Research shows that when people start a conversation harshly or reactively it has a 96% chance of going nowhere. Why? Because Reactivity promotes reactivity and vulnerability promote vulnerability. We can either trigger the other person’s threat system and hard and hot emotions or trigger their vulnerability and soft and warm emotions (tend and befriend system).
Take a risk, be vulnerable, share your needs in a soft and slow way
and watch your relationship grow day after day!!
While responding softly to your partner is key, many times the best response to someone who is hurting and upset is to listen and offer empathic presence. James, a wise man, once said, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for a person’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20)