Sometimes couples just have a dance they do with each other. The dance is a negative pattern of interactions that just cycle around and around without end. Each knows their lines like they were putting on a play and find themselves performing them on cue.
There’s a hole in the wall that needs fixing…
She nags about fixing it…
Then he yells about the nagging and calls her a bitch…
Then she tells him he’s verbally abusive…
Then he has something to drink…
Then she takes the children to her mothers….
Then he drinks a bit more and punches a new hole in the wall….
Then it all cycles around again a few weeks later.
Now obviously that is a sample of a cycle that is very dramatic for emphasis, most cycles are far less like a Lifetime Movie script. It can be as simple as when we come home we fight about who cooks dinner, then we whine about our day and ignore each other, she watches TV and he reads a book, then she declines his sexual advance if he tries it on and then both fall asleep unhappy.
A simple trick to try when you find yourself in one of these dances together is to do something different, anything different to break the pattern of interaction. Seriously, just anything different.
So if in the dramatic cycle above they are up to the part where she’s calling him verbally abusive, his next move is to start drinking. As long as he does something other than drinking, there’s a decent chance that she won’t haul the kids of to her mothers as a response. He could ;
Walk the dog.
Go for a drive.
Shoot some hoops in the driveway.
Heck even knitting would be better than drinking. Though angry knitting is really for professionals, so maybe stick to something physical like the first four options. Though if you’re driving, don’t drive to a bar, that just defeats the whole point of not drinking in the first place.
So anyway…. “You’re verbally abusive”
“I have no idea how to respond to that right now. We keep doing this shit over and over with each other. Usually right now I would start drinking. I’m going to go walk the dog for a while instead.”
I mean what is she going to tell her mother when she gets there with the kids?
“Oh no is he drinking again?”
“No, he’s walking the fucking dog. I’m so scared mama I think he’s snapped”.
“Hang on he’s texting me. Ah… he wants to take the kids out for ice cream after his walk.”