The communication and actions taken by each person in a relationship intertwine to either create either closeness or disharmony and distance. Each person reacts to the other in habitual ways. They each continue to do more of the same in reaction to a situation, creating a communication spiral which is either generative or degenerative.
Some examples of degenerative spirals may be:
If a wife feels her partner is withdrawing from her emotionally, she may criticize her husband to attempt to bring him closer, but finds he withdraws even further, she reacts by criticising him more.
If a child is not doing well at school, a parent may talk to the child every night to put pressure on them to do better, only to find the child’s grades continue to fall, the parent criticises the child more.
A boss may be dissatisfied with an employee’s work but does not address the issues with them, the employee who feels the boss withdrawing may complain to other employees, the boss continues not to address the employee directly, the employee creates more dissatisfaction in the workplace.
Without action to change the degenerative spirals, they pick up momentum. Marriages may end, children rebel, workplaces become unhappy.
You have the power to change the degenerative spirals you may find yourself in, and change the direction, affirm the relationship and creates closeness.
You can do this by changing your usual actions and patterns in a situation. Try something different. Ask yourself what would create a generative spiral in this situation. For example in the above examples the wife could express gratitude for what the husband does do for her and over time this could draw the husband closer, the parent could stop criticising the child’s grades and spent time with the child doing things they enjoy together, the boss could address the workplace issues directly with the employee, the employee is then motivated by better work conditions.
This is not a quick fix as persistence in relationships is the key. They need to be tended to maintain them. Change may also require the perspective of a supportive third party such as a friend or counsellor to open up new possibilities for action.
If you would like to take a step towards creating generative spirals in your relationships, call, text or email Bronwyn for couples counselling at Your Path Psychotherapy and Counselling in Greenlane, Auckland.