What Really Causes Vicious Cycles in a Marriage?




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Are you wondering what it is that causes blowups, shutdowns and other painful cycles in a marriage?

Well, if you think it is your spouse, you would be wrong.ย  And it’s not you, specifically, but something you carry – emotional wounds that predate your marriage.

This culprit starts painful cycles that can result in well entrenched mental and physical patterns.ย  Left unattended, the pattern can create a negative lens of your spouse.ย  Your spouse can become stuck in a ‘damned if you do’ and ‘damned if you don’t’ dilemma.


Here are some techniques to help you repair your relationship:


The Cause:

For those of us that have spent years studying human relationships and the most intimate relationship – marriage – what is evident in all conflict or breakdown is the key role that individual pain, or emotional raw spots play.ย  Some of these raw spots are rooted in childhood, others in young adulthood.ย  Regardless of their chronology, these raw spots are wired in the brain to help us detect and survive any emotional circumstance that vaguely resembles the raw spot’s root cause.

This means that we all have sensitivities that are vulnerable to direct pressure or the slightest touch. In marriage we are in close emotional proximity to each other and the likelihood of an accidental trigger is high.

Couples coming in to see me will want to spend their first few minutes presenting their position and indicting their spouse.ย  A challenge is getting both to look at their own wounds and see what inside themselves ignites reactivity and derails communication.ย  The next step is bringing each spouse’s pain into the awareness of the other.ย  This leads to the heavy lifting of recruiting them into the service of helping their spouse heal.ย  They are often surprised at this turn of events as well as the resulting rapid reduction of conflict.

God has called us to be one another’s growth partner.ย  This means living and loving with a dual lens – one lens on your own emotional pain and the other lens on your spouse’s.ย  Both require grace and commitment.

What do you do with your own sensitivities or raw spots and those of your spouse? Do you really know what they are?


Most people live an unexamined life, a life on autopilot. Pain and conflict are great awakeners.ย  If you choose, they can also lead you and your spouse to greater intimacy and love.