Marital Deja Vu: Haven’t We Have This Fight Before?

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.”
“Yeeeeeeeeeah… this is kinda awkward.”


  1. Well, he should just fix the hole in the wall! LOL! ;)

  2. Nagging bitch!!!! I'll fix the hole in the wall when I'm good and ready! :)

    And yes, fixing the hole in the wall does need to happen. But if they are locked into the dance, they may not see that.

  3. Antigone Amplified says:

    "if they are locked into the dance, they may not see that." How perceptive, Athol. I guess you're advocating:

    Make love, not war…

    As for doing something different, women can get the polyfilla out too, or ask someone else to help if the other half is not interested in filling in the holes in the wall.

  4. My wife and I used to have a dance that we went through any time that she levelled criticism at me. She would march in and say what she had to say. I would say absolutely nothing, but inside I would be seething. She would wait for a few minutes and then say "Are you not going to respond?" I would say "I heard you." Then she would leave.

    We broke this pattern after I read a book about being more assertive (I was a total Beta). After that, when she levelled a criticism or accusation at me I quickly thought about it and then agreed with whatever part of it was true. I then objected to whatever part was not true. The door was now open for a discussion, which is what she wanted.


    Her : "You did not mow the lawn like I asked to you to! I don't think you listen when I ask you to do things. You just nod so that I will go away."

    Me : "I did forget to mow the lawn. It was on my mental to do list, but then I got caught up in something else and forgot. However, I did not not just push it out of my mind. I fully intended to do it. I will do it right now."

    Her : "I wish that you would just remember things. I don't like having to nag you."

    Me : (smiling) "I don't like you having to nag me either."

    Her : (smiling) "Right. So don't forget things and then I won't nag you."

    Me : "Right. What was it I was supposed to do?"

    Her : (throwing a couch pillow and smiling) "Errrr … you drive me crazy!"

    Me : "I drive all the girls crazy."

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