If you think back to the last time you experienced a crisis in your relationship, you may remember the feelings of panic and fear. You may even remember feeling uncertain about whether your partner was going to be there for you.
In those moments, it is easy to let our fear build, until it transforms from a few sparks into a full-on house fire. When our relationship-house is on fire, we turn to the person we need the most for help. In our panicked state, we don’t always have the mindset to calmly explain that we are in crisis and need help. More often, we attempt to let our loved one know that we are in crisis, that our house is on fire, by throwing little bits of the fire in their direction. What we intend as a “hey, I’m really hurting right now, and I’m scared and need to know that you’re here for me”, comes out as anger directed toward the person we are turning to for help.
If I throw fire at my partner’s house, they’re going to take protective measures to keep their house from also catching on fire.
This intensifies whatever cycle has already been occurring in the relationship. One partner feels uncertain, and lashes out (when really, they’re looking for reassurance), the other partner backs away further, uncomfortable with the intensity of the first partner. This backing away leads the partner to feel further abandoned, and deeper into their crisis, fanning the flames, and turning the small bits of fire they throw at their partner into a raging fireball.
If we can understand this cycle, and recognize it when it happens, we can begin to stop it. Initially that might look like a “hey, I see what we’re doing here- we’re in our fire cycle”. Next one partner might say, “yes, I know I’m lashing out, because I’m anger, and under the anger is fear that you aren’t going to be here when I need you”. Or the other partner might say, “I see you lashing out, I know you feel anger, but I want you to know I’m here for you”.
If we can acknowledge the anger and the more vulnerable emotion behind it, we can slow the cycle and find connection in our relationships.
If you find yourself stuck in this cycle, and need help getting out of it, set up an appointment with Alice today by calling 801.944.4555.