Not only is drama time-consuming, it depletes our emotional, physical and spiritual energy leaving us with less energy to focus on the things that really matter.
The problem is, how we choose our partners is largely unconscious.
It is rooted in our childhood experiences and primary bonds we had with our parents or caregivers. Unconsciously, we choose partners that are like our caregivers to recreate the drama in our adult life.
Due to this, unhealthy “drama patterns” are largely unconscious, too.
An example of this is when couples argue about the same issues over and over again, triggering the same emotional reactions. No wonder couples feel nothing changes and feel frustrated, helpless and sometimes out of control as a result.
So other than the obvious, why do dynamics like this cause so much pain?
Because, the emotions that are triggered are rooted in old childhood experiences that are often painful and trigger unmet childhood “attachment needs” – needs such as love, acceptance, safety and belonging.
In short, these relationship patterns will continuously to repeat until they’re brought to the “conscious awareness.”
Until you deal with your individual unmet needs, very little will change.
If you are struggling with unhealthy patterns in your relationship, you can learn to minimize it, eliminate it or better yet, learn from it.
Here are five valuable growth exercises that you can practice on a regular basis:
1. Practice the Pause
If you are sensing a conflict or already in the midst of one, do yourself (and your partner) a favor by giving yourself a time-out.
Ask to have a moment to detach from the issue and pause.
During this time, take some deep breaths. Take as much time as you need so you can reconnect to the conversation level-headed.
2. Recognize triggers
When we have strong emotional reactions to something or bothered by the same issues in a relationship, it often points to a trigger of a previous unresolved issue – perhaps a previous relationship or as far back as childhood.
Take time to reflect.
Ask yourself what that could be. Is it related to a previous relationship? Is it related to your childhood relationship with your mother, father or other caregiver?
3. Responses vs. Reactions
The difference between reactions and responses are reactions are filled with intensity, strong emotions and a sense of “entitlement.”
An example of this, “How could you do this to me?” Responses on the other hand, are thoughtful, grounded and come from an open, vulnerable place. An example of this, “I felt hurt when you said that to me.”
Practice responding rather than reacting.
When you are reacting, it’s a “knee-jerk” behavior, coming from an automatic, unconscious place. Ask yourself, what are you really feeling underneath the reaction. Is it another emotion that needs to be dealt with or expressed? Could it be sadness, fear, grief or loss? Remain aware and take time to self-reflect.
4. Be clear
Although you can’t completely avoid misunderstandings, try to be as clear and intentional as possible when you communicate.
Communicate what is necessary and only what you mean.
Keep emotional or “heavy” conversations to over the phone or in person.
If you don’t understand what is being conveyed or misunderstand, ask for clarification. For example: “What I heard you to say about that (issue/topic) was this,” and “What I felt about that (issue/topic) was this.”
5. Not my drama
An old Polish proverb, “Not my monkey, not my circus.” This is referring to not getting involved in issues that are not your problem to be dealt with in the first place.
When there is drama in the relationship our lens becomes foggy.
You may feel confused about what your issue is and what your partner’s issue is. You may not know, “Whose problem is it?” You may even feel that your are responsible for another person’s emotions or behavior, or that you have to “fix” the problem solely on your own.
Let me tell you, you are not responsible for how someone else feels or perceives something. You are only responsible for your own thoughts, emotions and behavior.
Ask yourself: Whose problem is it? Is it my problem, his/her problem or our problem?
Answering this simple question can help with the next step of approaching the issue or simply letting it go.
Keep in mind that each partner is bringing into the relationship their personal experiences and unconscious histories. Only take care of your baggage. Put down what is not yours.