When Arguments Go Circular


A big issue for couples are these arguments where the shaming goes around and around. One starts, the second responds in kind. First is one example, and then the kinds of circular arguments.

Shame and defensiveness is the cause of this kind of arguments. They go around and around, and cannot resolve the issue in front of them.

He gets drunk, comes home. She finds this offensive, and has expressed this many times in the past.

She says get away from me, you’re drunk
He – lets have sex
She – are you kidding me? You think I’m having sex with a drunk?
He – Oh god, your just a fucking bitch
She – oh no, you called me a bitch! Sobbing.

After a few more rounds, he switches over to apologizing, and begging for forgiveness. He cries and reaches for her.

She – Stay away from me, you’re disgusting.
He – you always put me down. So what if I had a few drinks, is that any reason to treat me like I’m just a piece of nothing? I don’t love you. I never have.
She – sobbing, I knew you never loved me. I just knew it. So why did you marry me? Huh? Huh? Why did you marry me?
He – I don’t know, I guess you put out and I thought I would always get some.
She – now I really know you don’t love me, you just want to get laid. And you are so bad in bed, you just please yourself and never think of helping me get satisfied. How do you think I like that?
He – oh my god, you have to go over that again? Haven’t we been through it already? You just lie there, you don’t do anything, you just expect me to go down on you and you don’t do that for me. It’s so much easier to just put it in and get off. That’s all it is for you too.
She – I’ve had lovers who were good to me, who really made me feel good.
He – Yeah? Who? That guy that left you for someone else? Yeah, he must have really liked being with you.
She – I have to leave you. I just can’t put up with this any more. It’s just back and forth, back and forth all the time.

He falls asleep or passes out on the bed in his clothes. She climbs under the covers on her side.

The whole next day she sulks. He alternates between apologizing and putting her down.

Two days later they come to my office. I ask what got the fight started. They don’t remember.
Forms of Circular Arguments:
1. She goes on and on about something he has done. She rages, blaming, and is contemptuous. He tries to sooth her, to get her to stop, but fails. This is often over betrayals. Then he may blame her for the reason he had to do what he did.

2. He may finally reach his limit on receiving her hurt, pouty, upset expressions, and set out to put her down to relieve his shame. To her it seems out of the blue. It seems to be attack for no reason.

3. One partner may become physically violent to stop feeling shame. The other partner may fuel it, just not caring any more, willing to be hurt.

4. Sweet criticism, sweet arguments and objections – polite. He comes home late, she looks up at him with doe eyes. Expresses worry, concern. She expresses hurt in a tiny voice.

He is just as sweet, becoming rational while looking at her with “caring.” He tells her why she shouldn’t have a problem with what he did.

She is too sensitive
He needs female attention
She needs to create a life of her own so she doesn’t focus on him

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