Friday, October 27, 2006


Negative Bonding – When All You Do Is Fight

Negative bonding is a habit couples get into that causes them to dance round and round the same old issues without gaining any ground. Nothing gets resolved and everything stays the same. Breaking free of the pattern is about more than conflict resolution. It’s about starting back at square one, finding the common ground you once stood on before the fighting habit got in the way.

Fighting is a game of one-upmanship: Deciding who’s right or who’s wrong is nothing more than a way of keeping score. Revisiting old issues is all about rubbing salt in the wound…
“I’m right.”
“You may be right now, but you were wrong last week.”
“Well, you were wrong the week before.”
“Maybe so, but I’m not wrong now.”

Bickering is tedious and tiresome for the combatants and emotionally draining for anyone who is forced to watch. As attackers rush to defend and defenders rally to attack, those on the sidelines long to shout, “Enough!” and “Grow up!”

Fighting has an insidious attraction because it generates the fight-or-flight adrenalin rush. People hooked on the excitement can find themselves sacrificing the love they once held dear.

Curing yourself of the negative bonding habit comes in stages. You have to focus on winning back trust rather than looking for buttons to push. You have to take ownership of the issues that cause your pain and stop trying to assign blame. You have to choose acceptance over logic and love over personal gain.

You have to make the first move to heal the rift that has grown between you. You have to remember that respect and understanding, commitment and compassion can be infinitely more rewarding than a petty notch on your belt.

For the couple that is still together, the constant battle has created a climate of bitterness and resentment. Worn ragged by the strain of maintaining constant vigilance, it is very common for partners to seek comfort elsewhere. It can be an especially lonely time when the friends you turn to for a sympathetic ear have nothing left to give, their loyalty tested to the breaking point by the self-centered show they’ve been forced to endure.

To begin the healing process and reclaim the closeness they once shared, the couple that is still together must find a common ground that they agree is worth fighting for, rather than against. Working as a team toward a shared goal can change their perspective and reawaken the pride and respect they once felt for the partner they chose.

For the couple that just broke up, the adrenalin is still riding high. Very soon, things will come crashing down around you. With your energy and emotions at an all-time low, you are susceptible to illness, accidents and all manner of self-loathing and abuse.

While it might seem that this is the perfect time for reconciliation, in fact timing couldn’t be worse. The focus is self-centered, not shared. The negative habit of blame follows hard on the heels of regret. At this point the partners need to seek help. They need to look for positive solutions designed to celebrate the strength of two as opposed to the virtue of one.

For the couple already separated, the damage has pushed you as far apart as two people can get. The challenge now, is to find a way to forgive one another for the habit you both shared and move on to embrace the best in each other, even from a distance.

You need to take a look at the world around you. Those who appear to have it all have less than you think. Those who are truly happy work hard to make it happen. You need to recognize that your happiness is not something owed to you by another; it is something you must find within yourself. Take the time to consider all that you had. Look for opportunities to get it back and, if you do, don’t squander it again!

For the couple with other problems, staging battles and keeping score is often a way of hurting ourselves. Holding those we love at arm’s length when we need them the most is extremely self-destructive.

You need to remind yourself that everyone needs a strong shoulder now and then. If you do your best to turn that strong shoulder cold, you will have nothing but your hollow victories to comfort you when the going gets tough.

To all of you, the answer is simple: When you fight to be right, no one wins. Raising yourself up by putting them down does nothing to honor yourself or the love you once knew.

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