Avoiding Conflict Loops in Your Relationships
Loops are negative interactions between two people in which each reaction heightens the conflict. For example, if one person is demanding, the other person will often withhold. Or if one expresses an emotion, the other may be overly logical. If one pursues, the other will probably distance. Here’s what the bible says about loops:
- Don’t have them! Romans 12:17 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”
- Don’t respond to them! (in the expected negative way). Proverbs 17:19 says, “He who loves a quarrel loves sin; he who builds a high gate invites destruction.” So don’t build a “high gate!” Remember: You don’t have to accept an invitation to every argument you’re invited to! Proverbs 15:1 says “a soft answer turns away wrath.”
- Don’t start them! Romans 4:15 says, “The law produces wrath.” Too many rules and regulations produce more bad reactions on the other person’s part. An atmosphere of “grace” (not rules) must prevail in any home.
Christ was constantly invited into loops by the teachers of Jewish law. These teachers elevated meaningless rules above relationship with a loving God. They were threatened that Christ showed no regard for their man made rules, as when he healed a man on the Sabbath (which was forbidden by the “law”). Here’s an example of how the Jewish teachers tried to invite Christ into a “loop”: Christ was asked if people should pay taxes to Caesar. This question was designed to start a fight. Jesus asked to see a Roman coin and asked whose image was on the coin. Of course, the image was that of Caesar. Then Jesus said in Luke 20:25, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.” Christ did not accept this invitation to a fight.
Here are six good ways to break relationship loops:
1.) Always turn a complaint into a request (don’t demand).
2.) Be curious, not reactive (don’t withhold).
3.) Agree that no mind-reading is allowed in your relationship.
4.) Ask the other person what he/she meant by their statement, or ask what they thought you meant by your statement. The meaning that we attribute to the actions and words of others is usually the reason for conflict.
5.) Ask yourself, “How do I invite the behavior I hate?” Examine your own loop with God. If you are “looping” with someone, there is something amiss with your relationship with God, and He can tell you exactly what that is and how you are resisting Him.
6.) Temporarily disengage from the conversation. Whoever disengages takes responsibility for telling the other person when he/she will reengage, then must initiate the re-engagement. Even just slowing the conversation down may save the day!
Here’s the best idea yet: Create POSITIVE loops. Foster good will.
“Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice” (Psalm 112:5).
“Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38).
“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
There are many more loop busters. Loops are symptomatic of unmet intimacy needs such as affection and approval. This is one of the paradigms I look through in marriage counseling.