Relationships thrive with periods of harmony, rupture, and repair.
When one partner holds out hope for their relationship to change based on times of harmony, but without attention to the turbulent periods in between, they are often stuck in an unhealthy relationship cycle that can last years without any lasting change.
Relationships go through waves of harmony, rupture, and repair when a relationship is working well. There is no such thing as two people getting along all the time. Psychologist Bonnie Badenoch recognizes that this might occur only 30% of the time in good relationships. The rest of the time is about rupture and repair of the relationship. The “rupture” is when issues occur that disrupt the emotional connection. The “repair” is when the partners resolve the disruption together and arrive back in a harmonious state, usually with greater trust in the relationship.
Unhealthy Relationship Cycle
Most relationships start out with both people more or less having put forward their “agreeable” self. This early period is a time of getting to know one another and, if favorable feelings develop, they may fall in love and move on to a commitment of some kind.
What is striking in the data I collected from over a thousand women about their dating is that very little conflict, if any, took place until they were in the committed part of their relationship. Clearly, lack of conflict contributed all the more to feeling that they found a good match. However, eventually any serious difficulties with addressing their issues together cropped up.
A couple who lacks tools to repair their rupture is in troubled waters. Some of the unforeseen problems reported were:
- Refusal to take responsibility and blaming their partner for the unrest; they make the problem about the other’s character or other deficiencies.
- Emotional withdrawal; one gives the silent treatment in an attempt to punish the other for the perceived hurt.
- One seems to take ownership of the problem but ultimately holds the partner responsible for causing them to react the way they did.
- One thinks he/she is superior and entitled to have the final word. One expects the partner to agree with them or drop the issue.
These reactions further perpetuated the rupture in their relationship.