Anatomy of A Fight: What Does Your Fight Look Like?

Fights Are Called "Negative Cycles" In Therapy

The typical negative cycle of a couple recovering from an affair is similar to the classic pursuer/distancer cycle. (Mentioned in an earlier blog post.) In this case the pursuer typically is the injured spouse from the affair while the distancer is the betrayer. 

Negative Cycles Include 6 Distinct Components

The anatomy of a fight is made up of 6 component parts.  These components keep us stuck in a negative cycle and make it difficult to get out of a negative cycle. They are:

  1. Triggers: these triggers to a negative pattern could be a rude remark, a facial expression, tone of voice, sarcastic comment or literally anything at rubs your spouse the wrong way. 

  2. Appraisals: these are perceptions during a negative cycle you have of yourself and of your spouse. Appraisals of your spouse may be: he/she doesn’t care, he/she is cold, he/she is controlling, etc. Appraisals of yourself may be: I give more than I am getting back in return, I feel like I am not good enough, I see myself as weak, etc. 
  3. Behaviors: these behaviors in a negative cycle tend to be things like yelling, screaming, criticizing, insults, or avoiding your spouse, finding yourself getting busy with distractions or no longer disclosing information with your spouse. 
  4. Secondary Emotions: These emotions are like the emotions that are visibly seen, much like the top of an iceberg is seen. These emotions are often worded as: rejected, lonely, angry (because I’m annoyed), ticked off, mad, hurt, painful etc. 
  5. Primary Emotions: These emotions are like the emotions that are unseen like the bottom of an iceberg. There are only six of these emotions: Anger (assertive anger that defends against wounds), sadness, surprise/excitement, disgust/shame, fear and joy. 
  6. Attachment needs: These needs are the final piece in a negative cycle. Attachment needs could often be: I need to feel needed, I need to feel wanted, I need to feel accepted, I need to feel listened to, etc.  

These 6, very unique components, are examined in more detail in future posts.  The anatomy of a fight are what keep couples stuck.  Understanding these parts can help you communicate better with your partner and feel close again.