Okay, so it is probably (and hopefully) unlikely that playing tag could actually ruin your life. But, it could fatally wound your chances of a healthy relationship.
Let’s go back to the playground. Maybe 2nd or 3rd grade: At that age, it is pretty normal to whole-heartedly believe that cooties are the worst disease you can catch, and what better way to play with the opposite sex than to chase them around the school yard? Many of us did this when we were younger. The girls would run after the boys, and suddenly there would be a shift in momentum and the boys would start chasing after the girls. Tag, you’re it.
This game is far from over. You didn’t leave it on the playground, and you may never stop playing this game of “tag”. This is what Passion Provokers calls the “Control/Abandonment Cycle”.
If we’re all honest with ourselves, we can start to see where we fit in the cycle. What’s fascinating about this cycle is that it changes from relationship to relationship. In my coupleship, I identify more as “The Abandoner”, but in the cycle with my sister I am the obvious “Controller”. Marla Keller, Co-founder of Passion Provokers, describes these to types below:
I am in charge. I am aware of most possible outcomes, and I make sure they happen. I like people to perform as I expect. If you don’t clean the kitchen to the standards I am used to, I will clean it over again to make sure it gets done the right way (and hope you’ll watch me do it so it’s done properly the next time). I like to feel as though I have the power. In a relationship, I like security and am willing to do anything I need to do to make that happen. I will vocalize my opinion, and if you act in disagreement of that I will get upset. Most of the time, it’s “my way or the highway.” I use phrases like “You should…” or “You ought to…”. I get jealous easily. I like attention, especially yours. If you say no to something, I will probably try to get you to say yes another time.
Now, what about the Abandoner?
When things get weird, uncomfortable, or too close for comfort, I will likely just stop responding. Like that time we were arguing and I just walked out of the room, or when I didn’t respond to your text. My “safety blanket” is avoiding or leaving. I don’t usually push my opinion, and if you say no I won’t bring it up again (sometimes I do this to spite you). I close myself off emotionally. I know this drives you crazy. And to be honest, I sort of like that. I often react this way when I feel controlled. It’s the only defense I feel like I have, and it works.
There is always a role for one person and another in each relationship. Like I mentioned above, I see myself as one or the other depending on who the relationship is with.
Most often, these cycles are unhealthy. In the perfect world, we would be healthy enough to realize that we don’t need to control or abandon in order to have love. But, because all of us have experienced pain (anything from a high school heartbreak to traumatic abuse), this is our default mode.
This mode is how we got attention at a very early age in our development. Remember tag? Yea, you run after me and when you finally catch me it’s my turn to chase you. The chaser being the controller and the chasee being the abandoner.
Passion Provokers has noticed a big pattern in this control/abandonment cycle. These occasions of controlling and abandoning often start to escalate. For your coupleship, it could be a 3-week cycle, a 6-month cycle, or a 2-year cycle.
At the “end” if the cycle, there is often a big blow up. Most people explain this as a “huge fight”. Most couples kiss and make up and then they enter the honeymoon phase for X amount of time. Slowly, the control/abandonment cycle starts back up and in a few weeks/months/years it starts all over again.
The goal becomes ending this cycle, or at least working towards a much more mellowed version if it. The more aware we are of our position in this arrangement, we can start to change our behavior.
My husband and I were heavily struggling with this during our first year of marriage. We would often both be the “controllers” and then both flip (almost at the same time) to the abandoners. And BOY did that drive us both absolutely c r a z y. We were losing ourselves in this dysfunctional trade-off. It only started to get better once we decided to change our old argue habits.
A huge piece of this was using the check-in tool we were taught. At first, we would be knee-deep in anger, frustration, and hurtful words, when all of a sudden one of us would stop. Just by my husband stopping how he would normally react completely threw me off. My perfectly planned come-backs became null and void when he stopped saying or reacting the way I predicted he might.
It was a beautiful transformation, which at fist started by me huffing and puffing out of the room because I (ultimately) felt embarrassed and ashamed by my own behavior.
Slowly, through time and dedication to be accountable to our own part in this nasty behavior, our pattern started to change. Instead of immediately going into defense and attack mode, we started to listen to each other. Our body language was literally changing before our own eyes. We were able to experience tough conversations with respect and honesty vs. irreversible pain and cold-hearted words.
By no means are we perfect at this yet. However, just by being aware of our roles in the Control/Abandonment cycle led us to a path of healing instead of broken-ness.
If you’d like more information on this, or would like to talk about it during your free consultation, you can CLICK HERE.