Escalation is the primary reason for relationship distress. It occurs when individuals attack their partner and partners attack back. However, there’s another process that’s problematic in relationships.
Looping is when a couple has the same conversation over and over again. For those old enough to remember, it’s like an eight-track cassette tape that plays the same album over and over again.
In their second counseling session, Stephanie told Doug, “I didn’t feel that you still loved me.” Doug responded, “I always loved you and have expressed it.” Stephanie continued to express that she didn’t feel loved and Doug continued to insist that he was expressing his love towards her.
Stephanie is expressing her feelings but Doug is being defensive by insisting he was loving. The way for Doug to stop the loop is to be responsive instead of defensive.
I coached Doug to say, “I thought I was expressing my love to you. I have always loved you and I’m sorry you didn’t experience it.” The conversation then moved to the ways Doug could express himself in loving ways so that Stephanie could experience his love.
To prevent looping, it’s important to be responsive to your partner instead of being defensive.