What Goes Around
What Goes Around…
By T. Scott Sewitch, Ph.D.
Beacon Behavioral Services
Men and women often enter into marriage with hopes of receiving unconditional
and unlimited love and attention from a partner who lives only to meet their
every need. It usually doesn’t take too long for both husband and wife to
realize that these initial expectations were something of a fairy tale, and that
the person sharing their bed and breakfast table is a separate individual with
their own needs, attitudes and behavior patterns. How we deal with that initial
shock and disappointment will often determine the future course of our marriage
– whether it will be based on mutual affection and respect, or a battleground of
ongoing bickering and conflict.
All too often the effort to get our needs met in a marriage degenerates into
conflict, with each person digging in and holding their position through a long
series of power struggles. These relationships are marked by various negative
change strategies, such as arguing, yelling, belittling and withholding.
Obviously, this cannot work. People do not get their needs met in this way. No
one can actually “win” an argument or power struggle in a marriage. Usually
these battles result in a standoff of one sort or another. But, even if one
person appears to have “won,” the unhappy reality is that they have defeated
their own life partner. Further, the “loser” is left feeling hurt and resentful,
and it is only a matter of time before they will try to even the score…and the
battle continues. “…What goes around comes around.”
That phrase, while describing the essence of a conflict-filled relationship,
also points the way to the solution. That is, the “vicious cycle” of conflict
can be changed into a “positive cycle” of mutual caring and respect.
This can happen when both partners begin using positive change strategies.
Positive change in a relationship comes about when both people give up on the
notion that they can coercively demand that their needs be met, and instead
focus on meeting their partner’s needs. If people freely give to each other in
this way, both get their needs met.
This is a powerful change and it can work wonderfully well. But, it can be
difficult to give up long practiced patterns of arguing and demanding in an
effort to get what you need. To help yourself make a positive change, try to
remember that putting out a lot of hostile negativity makes it quite likely that
hostile negativity is exactly what will be coming back to you. However, if you
make the effort to be caring and giving to your partner, you are strongly
encouraging them to act that way toward you. “….What goes around comes around.”