Recognizing Your Unconscious Communication Patterns
( From: A Path for Couples, Ten Practices to Transform Your Relationship. Email me if you want to receive the Practices that help you open to more creativity with your partner.)
One key idea bears repeating over and over. Your unconscious patterns tend to co-stimulate unconscious behaviors in your partner.
This stimulation leads to the repetition and to the predictability I have described. You tend to do the same thing when you are stimulated in a certain way, say when you are judged or accused.
It is not easy for some of you to identify these patterns, so here are some tips.
After a massive study of my own unconsciousness, and that of my many students, it has become clear to me that most patterns contain one or both of these two core behaviors.
an attack-defend pattern
or a pursue-withdraw pattern.
Attacks almost always contain a judgement or a criticism, and evoke either a defense of some kind. In a pursuit pattern, you move towards your partner, in an attempt to connect, but maybe you are mad, and your partner retreats. There are many variations on these patterns, and some are listed below, and I for example at good at all four behaviors.
Teacher-student. (One of you holds the position of being right.)
Committed-not committed. (A variation of pursuer-withdrawer.)
Over-responsible and under-responsible partners.
(This is a parent-child type relationship pattern.)
If you think about these patterns, each position in the pair REQUIRES the other. This requirement is the essential characteristic of these patterns. And it is the key to self-responsibility and to transformation. Key questions are:
how did I learn this part of the pattern?
what do I get out of my role? (Usually protection.)
These are only samples of possible patterns. Often clients ask me, “How can I identify these patterns?” Here are some clues:
1. Which one of you gets angry? When? What does your partner do in response?
2. Is one of you often late or forgetful? What does the partner do in response?
3. Are agreements between you clear? Is there a pattern of broken or confused agreements?
4. What happens when one or both of you is tired, late, hungry, or overworked? Do specific patterns of tension arise?
5. What kind of conversations do you have about addictive processes? (Alcohol, work, other drugs, internet, pornography, etc.)
You can name your unique variations of these patterns as you work with them. When you bring consciousness to the usual stressors in your relationship, you can change your habitual responses. Remember: in most cases, each of you is equally responsible for the repeated pattern.
As you pay attention to your body signals, you open to the information that your body gives you. And this attention is a key to finding to joy and bliss.