Negative Velcro Loop
Most of us are looking to obtain a healthy and happy relationship. Unfortunately, sometimes we find ourselves stuck in what seems like an unhealthy, unhappy relationship with no insight as to how to fix it or what is even truly wrong. Understanding what a Negative Velcro Loop is and how it might be playing out in your relationship, can be helpful in understanding where you and your partner are stuck. It can also give insight as to where to go from here.
There are many labels for the role that you may take on in your relationship. You might find yourself being the Pursuer, which leaves you defensive. Or you may find yourself being the Distancer, which also leaves you defensive. It’s not what you label yourself that matters; it’s the process taking place that is important.
For your purposes the Negative Velcro Loop occurs within a system, which is the dynamic between you and your partner. The Loop creates a certain level of comfort. The comfort comes from the established routine, regardless of whether it is a healthy routine or not. This is when your relationship starts to go on autopilot; you stop being present or in the moment. You become disengaged or you’re not mindful of what is going on around you and how you’re experiencing it. You are simply going through the motions without feeling them.
Let’s look at how this autopilot may be present in a real life example. Jane spends a good amount of time with her girl friends, which has never bothered Joe. He also spends time with his boy friends. They each have specific nights that they hang out with their friends. Joe and Jane have gotten into a routine of talking about their nights away from each other, work, the children, and other “household items.” These conversations can be healthy for the relationship if you do them properly. However, Joe and Jane have gotten into an autopilot routine of talking about the data of these issues (what they did, who was there) and not their emotional reaction (how much fun it was, how they became angry, that they were nervous). Bringing one another up to speed on what happened leaves little to no room in their normal pattern of interaction to share a negative or positive experience they’ve had with one another. If Joe and Jane were able to share their experience and thus experience it for another time with one another, their encounter has the potential to bring them to a deeper level of connection.
Sometimes the autopilot routine that Joe and Jane have gotten themselves into can be good. For example, Joe doesn’t need to have an emotional experience that should be shared with Jane when he is brushing his teeth or passing the salt. Being able to do every day tasks on a surface, data based level is beneficial to getting these tasks completed. It is when your needs change within the Loop that you need awareness of what you are experiencing. If Joe had a horrible tooth ache and it was causing him pain while he brushed his teeth, he could share this with Jane. This allows her to care for him and show him how much she loves him.
Another example of the couple staying in autopilot may look like this. Joe has been feeling stressed at work and has been needing more from Jane. However, because they have not left room in their Loop to share experiences like this, Joe only holds his need on a subconscious level, leaving him to perceive Jane spending more time with her girlfriends than usual. Instead of Joe being in touch with his emotional experience and being able to work that part of him into his and Jane’s normal pattern of expression, he expresses his needs through asking for tangible favors from Jane such as picking up his dry cleaning or making his favorite meal. Jane, however, does not put these things at the top of her list, as she does not have the awareness that these tasks are his expression of his emotional needs. She continues to go out with friends and not pick up the dry cleaning or make Joe’s favorite meal. Joe is not getting his emotional needs met through the tasks, so he starts to ask more from Jane such as asking her to go out with him or watch a movie at home. Joe may even request more sex of Jane. Jane starts to feel overwhelmed by all of this attention from Joe as it is not their “norm” or within their comfortable autopilot routine. She starts to pull away and make plans with her girl friends before Joe gets the chance to make plans with her. Joe then starts to make more plans in hopes that Jane will reciprocate. Jane finds this to be annoying and that Joe is nagging her all the time, which makes her pull away further; thus Jane is withdrawing from Joe’s pursuing. Joe then becomes angry and yells at Jane for never spending time with him. Jane feels she spends plenty of time with Joe and states that he is annoying with all his nagging and begging to spend time together. Joe blames Jane for not trying in their relationship, and Jane blames Joe for smothering her.
In this example, we can see that there is a push and pull pattern. Joe wants more, which pushes Jane away, which then pushes Joe to want more. There are areas within this pattern that can be changed and reworked in order to change the pattern and the dynamics between Joe and Jane. The most important correction to make has to do with Joe and Jane’s vulnerability to express their experience(s) within their Negative Velcro Loop. Both Joe and Jane have to have self-actualization and mindfulness of what they need. This can bring them together in the moments of sharing and have the potential to be very intimate for both Joe and Jane.
Both Jane and Joe tend to blame or attack one another for their unhappiness. Blaming and attacking tend to put the other person on the defense. If each individual can get in touch with what is really going on for them and verbalize that to their partner, this emotional experience will trigger both Jane and Joe to be more receptive to one another. For example, Jane may have been spending the same amount of time she always has with her girl friends. However, due to Joe feeling stressed at work, he did not have the capacity for Jane to be putting her attention on anyone but him. The first way the Loop could have been changed is if Joe realized he needed Jane more due to work. He could have verbalized his vulnerability in that moment of needing Jane. Joe possibly even missed her due to the mundane routine they have found themselves in, where they do not get to connect on a deeper level. Instead of saying he needed her or missed her, he blamed her for not spending time with him.
The second place the Loop could have been stopped is if Jane had been in touch with this routine and been able to check in with Joe. She perceived herself as spending the same amount of time with her girl friends. Jane can check in with Joe asking questions like “I’ve noticed you needing more or wanting more. Our routine used to be good for both of us. Where are you at with it now?” This could have triggered Joe to then be more in touch with his own needs in that moment. Thus Jane gave him permission within the Loop to express what he is experiencing, leading the couple to converse about their needs on a deeper level and giving them that connection Joe may have been missing within the autopilot routine.
In order to break the Negative Velcro Loop each individual has to be vulnerable. They have to put their needs out there and hope that their partner is receptive to them. This process can be scary, which is why we as humans tend to blame others thus putting the “bad” on others and not ourselves.
Please continue to “Breaking the Negative Velcro Loop” for a more in-depth look at overcoming the Negative Velcro Loop.