How We Fall Out of Love
I’ve recently had a coaching client who came to the awareness that she was pushing her partner out of the relationship. She noticed the pattern in her life of finding differences that she complained about and would then go about trying to force the partner to change. This rarely works. She realized that when she had enough of these differences on her mental scoring sheet, she would start to lose the feelings for her partner and the relationship was on the way out. It was a defense mechanism that kept her safe from commitment, but also kept her from being in a long term relationship that she wanted in her life.
My client realized she was moving closer to a negative threshold in her current relationship. The pattern had previously been an unconscious process to her and operated automatically. She had very little choice in the matter. She decided, with a little coaching, that it would be better to gain some choice in whether she stayed in the relationship or decided to end it. She didn’t want it to happen to her again. Dealing with it at this point was easier than what happens in many relationships where the threshold has already been breached.
It is often the case that at least one of the partners is relationship has already reached a threshold before deciding to get coaching or therapy. When a person reaches the point of threshold, a belief is formed that the relationship is over. That makes things more difficult. The new belief will be something like, the relationship is no longer worth it and that the partner cannot provide what is needed. Variations include, the partner is not capable, or is intentionally withholding what is needed.
The problem is that, at the moment of threshold, a reevaluation takes that is retroactive. Memories change and previous associations become distorted. The person disassociates from the pleasurable experiences of the past relationship and fully associate with the unpleasant memories. The person may know that there were positive memories, but can no longer access or feel those feelings. This phenomenon reshapes not only the past and present, but also the future. Unpleasant associations become more real and significant in her mnd.
You are likely to hear the person say things like, “It’s too late.” or “Now I know him for who he really is.” Any evidence that is presented for a contrary view is reframed with, “Yes, he did and said some nice things, but he didn’t really mean them.”
As bad as this scenario is, it is even more sad and terrible for the partner who did not reach threshold. Everything that this person does will likely to met with resistance and whatever he does or says will be taken as just another example of how bad he is. The partner may also sabotage and become angry at seemingly insignificant details regardless of efforts at reconciliation. Everything seems to verify the belief that the partner is stupid, deceitful, devious, ugly, or incapable of loving. No matter what the person tries to do to make things better, they wind up being even more hurt by the reactions generated.
Coming Back From the Threshold
Sometimes both partners have reached some type of threshold. To bring people back from the threshold is obviously difficult and may take some time. The old advice of never going to bed mad is solid if the coach can also teach the couple to find positive states and anchor them so that they never leave an emotional conversation with some kind of neutralizing of the negative feelings. You will want to do as many things as possible to stack the deck on the positive side of the scales so that old negative anchors begin to lose their power and new anchor begin to habituate. Habituation here refers to a lessening of negative emotional response to repeated stimuli, and a strengthening of positive behaviors and feelings.
Reinforce Positive Behaviors
Card Game: Reinforce Everything that Supports the Behavior You Want More Of
Give each person 8 cards, 4 black and 4 red. Each partner gives a black card every time something they do or say reinforces positive feelings and partners give a red card every time something that is said or done hurts or annoys or is insensitive. This is really about listening. Assuming that you know what your partner wants is counter-productive to actaully finding out.
Tips to finding out:
- Check it out.
- Ask the partner.
- Be gullible and listen without judgment to whatever answers the partner gives.
- Remember, the answers are sacred to the person and that the partner is allowing enough vulnerability to express himself is critically important.
Another technique is to have each person imagine an ideal leisure weekend.
Anchoring Positive States
Some states you will want to anchor include appreciation, being cherished, respected, etc. and then begin to take opportunities to trigger attraction, enticement, and whatever adds spice to the relationship for that individual couple.
Four Qualities for Coming Back from Threshold
1. Know what you want and what your partner wants. Ask yourself what you care about, and what makes you feel loved, wanted, cared for, and respected. Express these desires. And, find out the same from your partner and satisfy them.
2. Be willing to be flexible enough to express and manifest your partner’s specific wants and needs the way they want to have them expressed. Satisfy what your partner says she wants it, the way she says wants them specifically satisfied. Not how you would want it. Check it out with her and be willing to believe exactly what she says is exactly what she wants
3. Have the sensory acuity (pay attention) to notice when subtle cues are communicating that your partner is slipping out of appreciation, attraction, and habituation and react appropriately.
4. Have the skills and commitment to bring yourself back to appreciation, attraction, and habituation. To do this, you may have to suspend your own defensive impulses and keep focus on the other person.
Maintaining the Good Feelings
According to Leslie Cameron-Bandler, in her book Solutions, as long as tthe four characteristics can be be
reinforced, the relationship can move towards and stay in a growing, loving, intensely caring mode over time. It just takes some time and dedication and a good coach can help each person in the relationship develop skills and patterns that support the ability to become more and more tolerant of differences and habituate to the new direction in the relationship.
Other Useful NLP Patterns and Learnings:
- Learn about Meta-Programs – these language and behavior patterns are the source of an amazing amount of mis-communication in relationships. Communicate the way your partner needs to get the information, not the way you would want it, even though you do feel like your partner is not listening to you. Listen to them first. Your own behavior is the only real place you can effective cause change to occur
- Anchoring – Anchor positive states, neutralize unresourceful states, habituating to new behaviors is an anchoring process
- Change Personal History – It is common that behavior patterns are visited from parents to children and whatever limiting core patterns are in place about relationship can be released and transformed so that new choices can be made in present time.
- Parts Integration – One or both partners may have splits in their programming that are sabotaging the ability to be present, caring, and appreciative in relationship.
- Six Step Reframe – Reframe limiting behaviors by finding the positive intent of the limiting behavior and then asking the Creative Part to generate new choices and strategies for dealing with life situations. When I come to the relationship integrated, the relationship has a much better chance of being integrated.
- Total Win Negotiating – Relationship involves an almost constant negotiation and the basic skills taught in the Total Win Negotiating workshop are useful if not critical for every couple. The mindset is that there’s almost always more on the table than people realize and most people are in negotiation fearing that they will lose something. In Total Win negotiation, you will make sure the other party’s interests are also satisfied. Skills include: dealing with conflict, separating the person from the problem, getting to the real issue, generating options, finding mutual solutions, knowing where your strength is in the negotiation.
- Belief Change Patterns – Beliefs follow a natural pathway of coming into being, evolving, and change. You can deal with the belief that the relationship is over and/or that the partner cannot provide what is necessary. Also reestablish the memory of how and why the relationship started.
These are some of the skills and patterns that I try to provide to coaching clients who are having relationship difficulties. For more information contact me at 602 321-7192 in Scottsdale, Arizona or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Bill Thomason
NLP Success Coach
Certified NLP Trainer