Are you and your significant other fighting about the same thing repeatedly? Is this driving you crazy? You may not know how much more you can take. Some repetitive arguments have the same pattern, which you may even have memorized. Repetitive relational cycles often start with a trigger. Then suddenly the emotional intensity ramps up. and before you know it, both of you find yourself on the defensive. Words are often said that are hurtful. One of you may retreat. You might find yourself saying, “I’m done!”
The words “I’m done” do not usually mean you are calling your marriage quits or ending your relationship. It’s like a check engine warning light. If you ignore the warning, your engine will eventually die. The words “I’m done” usually mean you don’t know what else you can do to end the fighting, the bickering, the lack of understanding. You may feel helpless and overwhelmed about improving your relationship and understanding each other.
If this scenario sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. I hear the words, “I’m done,” many times in my practice with couples as well as individuals. I have asked the clients I work with to define what “I’m done.” means to them Themes I hear are:
· Emotional – sad, hurt, apathetic, conflicted. Partners feel hurt, resentful, distrustful, believing that their partner does not understand or accept their perspective.
· Cognitive – repetitive, intrusive thoughts, overwhelm. Partners often have intrusive thoughts about repetitive arguments that are not fully resolved. At times, one or both partners may have a running story of what they believe their other partner is thinking. You may have a running narrative of what will happen if your relationship continues with this conflict.
· Relational – demeaned, misunderstood, frustrated. One partner may feel blamed or shame resulting from their partner’s reactions and words. Partners may start to notice that unresolved conflict starts to affect other aspects of their relationship, making it hard to enjoy one another, feeling less attractive or attracted to one another.
It can be difficult to gain perspective following repetitive arguments. You may believe that both of you are entrenched in your viewpoint. You likely feel misheard, misunderstood, and unvalidated. Some partners feel hopeless about changing the situation.
If you find yourself stuck, saying, “I’m done,” there are some mindfulness exercises as you process your emotions and thoughts.
3 Personal Tips for Gaining Perspective:
1) Try and change your response by changing your physiological response. If you are tense, identify where that tenseness is. Try to create some space around the unsettling or anxious feeling. Perhaps picture your favorite color filling that space. Try to imagine yourself fully relaxed. Try repeating the words I’m OK. You can also substitute your favorite mantra.
2) Attempt to let your experience of the situation be OK. Try saying I’m OK to experience the situation as it is. Notice any resistance. Try to identify where the resistance is in your body. Is your abdomen tight? Do you feel your jaw clenching? Try to understand where the resistance is coming from.
3 ) Sleep on it. Sleep can refresh us and give us perspective. Take a nap if you can. If a nap is not possible, make time to go to bed earlier.
When our perception shifts, it can create room for seeing our relational challenges in a different light. It is essential to pay attention to warning signs like the words “I’m done.” These words can be an internal compass for resolving repetitive conflict.
Sometimes we need help seeing a different perspective. If you are unable to see your partner’s viewpoint, couples counseling can help. Couples counseling can also help if you believe your partner does not understand or acknowledge your perspective. Many couples I have worked with have resolved past conflict and shifted their communication and understanding, leading to a more fulfilling connection.