How to recognize and break vicious circles in your family
Has it ever happened to you that your child behaved in such an annoying way that it was difficult for you to treat him or her with a loving attitude? Have you ever been so displeased with your spouse that it was difficult for you to say the words “I love you” to him or her? Perhaps you haven’t even said those words for a long time, simply because they don’t correspond to your feelings.
In this post (as Jeanne is still on that campground in France with our kids) I have the privilege to tell you what I learned concerning this matter. I would like to address a point here that can bring about a decisive change for the upbringing of your children, for your marriage, and even for your whole life.
Nowadays I can hardly remember the nights when Jeanne slept on the other side of the bed as far away from me as possible. It hasn’t been too many nights, fortunately. When it happened, I often didn’t even notice what was going on. I was peacefully asleep, while, over there, Jeanne couldn’t close her eyes at all in her agitation. But for some of those nights I knew exactly that I had hurt her with my words before. I was sorry, but on the same time I found her reaction totally exaggerated. On the one hand I longed for her closeness, but on the other hand my pride hardly allowed me to apologize to her, because I still believed that I was right and I did not see it at all as justified that she reacted in this way. And so I slept on my side, sadly but not able to change anything – until I discovered what I had just given myself into: a vicious circle that I am able to break.
As Jeanne also mentioned already in her posts, our little girl was very withdrawn for a long time. She didn’t search for our love as much as our boys did. Well, they themselves seized Mommy’s love with a mission. Jeanne could hardly be a minute without them, and that for a long, long, long, long (I think the point comes across…) time. These young lads always wanted to be carried around or sit on Mommy’s lap. But our girl wasn’t like that.
Well, we thought that this was just the way she was. She didn’t need our love, so we didn’t give it to her. After all, we had enough to do with our boys. So we were quite content with the fact that she wasn’t quite as demanding. After all, our view was confirmed again and again with the fact that our girl hardly ever sought our closeness. But one day I had the impression that this was actually not normal. Every child needs love and closeness. And so I started the experiment of consciously showering my girl with love. I spent a lot of time with her and told her again and again and again how much I loved her. And indeed, our girl began to change. With time she enjoyed cuddling with Jeanne and me more and more, she began to love our closeness and finally was actively looking for it. She became emotionally present and full of love for others. The vicious circle was broken.
Our second youngest had a phase in which he was extremely weepy and misbehaving. I often got upset about how he cried quickly, couldn’t give himself a jolt, and often was quite clumsy. In these situations it was extremely difficult for me to respond to him. But I realized that the more I was cold, hostile and demanding towards him, the more he was in tears. The only way out was to take him in my lap with a lot of time and patience and to tell him again and again how much I loved him.
“A vicious circle always emerges when we make our own actions towards others dependent on how the other person behaves or on what we feel.”
Because, if our counterpart then also makes their actions dependent on our behaviour, we are immediately in the middle of this spiral, which inevitably pulls the relationship down deeper and deeper.
Children in particular have no chance of shaping their behaviour consciously and independently of us. Our attitude towards them inevitably triggers a reaction in them.
Therefore, when we withdraw our love from a child, we should not be surprised if it becomes cheeky and emotionally turns away from us. Unfortunately, this often triggers parents to find it even more difficult to give their child love and closeness. This in turn leads our child to turn even more away from our love and education. The vicious circle has emerged.
God loved us first, before we could do anything right. And he still loves us, even if we haven’t done anything right to this day. His love is just there. But the moment we really start to recognize and experience this undeserved love in our lives, we start to get set free and changed in a way we could not have imagined before. We start to change without much effort from our side. For who is not drawn to such unconditional love? Love changes.
Isn’t it true that the moment we misbehave the most, we need love the most? Believe me, it’s the same for your counterpart.
But how can we achieve this? How can we overcome exactly in these difficult situations to respond to our counterpart?
It’s time for the three steps to break vicious circles:
- being confident of who we are
Be aware that what you do does not affect who you are. You’re all right, even if you admit you made a mistake.
That helps us get to step two:
- putting aside our own pride.
True humility is when we do something good against our feelings or when we apologize, although the other person has also done something wrong.
- doing the opposite of the obvious
The way to breaking the vicious circle is often to do the exact opposite of what would seem most obvious to us at the time. Love instead of hate, rapprochement instead of dissociation, praise instead of criticism.
Vicious circles can sometimes be very subtle and barely discernible. For example, if your marriage doesn’t evolve much over the years, if your love for each other doesn’t grow, you can be pretty sure that you’re in the middle of a vicious circle. It may not even pull you and your marriage right down, but it blocks progress.
I keep hearing couples say things like: “but he hasn’t changed a bit over all these years. Why would I bother being what he wants me to be or doing what he wants me to do?” “She never makes herself pretty for me… why would I even give her a compliment I can’t honestly say?” “I have no feelings for my wife. So why should I tell her I love her?”
Such quotes usually come from the middle of a vicious circle.
I have a beautiful marriage myself with my wife. But there are actually things in which our marriage has not yet “arrived” for me. I have wants my wife hasn’t yet met. There are things I’d wished to be differently in my marriage. Well demands never set the spouse free to respond wholeheartedly to the other person. It’s best to start with oneself. What I have done is, for years, I have been telling my wife every day, again and again, that I love her, that she is beautiful, which is exactly what is beautiful about her, and so on. And yes, there are days when I don’t feel them so lovingly and admirably. But that’s usually just a question of focus. There is always something you can find beautiful or admirable. Even if it’s just her beautiful pronounced curves when she’s highly pregnant.
Do I always feel like complimenting her? To be honest, more and more. This investment in seeking compliments for her, no matter how I feel, has opened my eyes to her beauty and sweetness in such a way that I still do it today, but with much more enthusiasm and even deeper from my heart than ever. The important fact remains that my love for her is my decision, which goes beyond my feelings. I know that over all these years this has gone towards setting my lovable wife free to love me back with all her heart.
Have you ever discovered vicious circles in your relationships? How did you overcome them? I would be happy to hear about it in the comments section.
It’s a powerful thing to recognize such vicious circles in your life. I wish you the strength, courage and overcoming power to break them and enjoy the result.