Breaking Negative Patterns

Heather and Joe showed up for their scheduled Marriage Intensive almost and hour late. Heather was tired before we started the first process. She had been up since 5 AM when her 18 month old couldn’t sleep any longer. It took longer than expected to get three young children to her parents for the day. She was operating on fumes.

Stuck In A Pattern Of Interacting

Like every one of the three hundred plus couples we have taken through the Marriage Intensive, Heather and Joe were stuck in a negative pattern of interaction. Joe felt like he was not important or valued in the marriage as he experienced her unavailability for conversation, time together, affection, and physical intimacy.

Heather felt like she was not enough as a woman and not good enough as a wife and mother as she experienced any un-affirming remark he made as criticism of anything that she had done to take care of their young children and the domestic chores of the home.

As the intensive progressed, each discovered something about their spouse. Their actions were sending unintended messages to their spouse that they were totally unaware of.

She heard: “I’m not good enough”

He heard: “I’m not important and have no value”

Negative Patterns of Interaction

When couples become stuck in negative patterns of interaction, there are consequences to the marriage.

  1. Communication Stops – The painful interaction with your spouse keeps you from beginning a new interaction. You try to protect yourself by not engaging your spouse.
  2. Issues Unresolved – Because you are no longer talking to each other, simple issues in the marriage are not addressed and stay unresolved.
  3. Aggression – In response to the pain you feel, you lash out at your spouse with arguments, yelling, threats of divorce, or sarcastic, cutting remarks.
  4. Withdrawal – In an effort to protect yourself from being emotionally hurt by your spouse, you spend less time together and when you are together you ignore your spouse.
  5. No Connection – Without interaction, you have no opportunity to develop emotional connection. When there is not connection of hearts, there will soon be no physical connection.
  6. Sharing a Roof – Before long you are sharing a roof together but not sharing a life together. The relationship is stale and dead.
  7. Broken Trust – One or both of you begin to find your emotional and physical connection needs outside of the marriage.
  8. Divorce – The devastation and pain of broken trust leads one of you to separate from your spouse, contact a divorce attorney, and begin the burial process of an already dead marriage.


During the Marriage Intensive, Heather and Joe’s eyes were opened to how they were wounding each other. Each was able to see how the pain they were causing their spouse had its roots in their spouse’s earlier wound. Something that had happened much earlier in their spouse’s life was unconsciously impacting their marriage. Their spouse’s old wound was the reason why their actions were causing them to interpret their interaction in such a painful way.

As each witnessed the healing exercise of their spouse’s old wound, they began to have empathy and tenderness for them. Instead of operating from a place of defensiveness and blame, they were each able to begin to operate from a place of understanding. This led to their ability to think about their marriage in a different way.

Each of them, with our help, developed individual unilateral commitments to a plan to begin a new pattern of interaction. Over the next several months as they implemented the plan, they broke the negative pattern of interaction, collaboratively solved issues as they came up, felt new and deeper emotional connection with each other, and began having the most satisfying sexual relationship in their history together.

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This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at © Roy and Devra Wooten 2017. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at [email protected].