• Are you and your partner stuck in a ‘demon dialogue’


    When we feel a sense of impending loss and isolation, there are usually three ways in which we respond. If we are happy in a secure union, we can easily accept our need for emotional connection and communicate those needs in a way that invites our partner to respond lovingly. Strained relationships, however, are marked by partners unsure of how to voice their needs. Instead, they become reactive and try to push partners into responding, or we shut down via stonewalling in order to protect ourselves.


    When these strategies become front and center in a relationship, then we risk getting stuck in what renown couple therapist Dr. Sue Johnson has coined, ‘demon dialogues.’ Patterns that take over relationships while creating resentment isolation from the loving bond. If it gets bad enough, we may start to believe the only solution is to give up.


    There are 3 ‘demon dialogues’ that trap couples in loops of emotional starvation and insecurity:


    1. Find the Bad Guy 

    This dialogue is characterized first and foremost by defensiveness. It’s the strike-first-so-I-don’t-get-struck pattern. Both partners define the other as uncaring or defective in some way. But this attack-attack strategy is hard to keep up.


    1. The Protest Polka.

    In this dialogue, each partner, attempts to deal with their sense of emotional disconnection but ends up unwittingly confirming the other’s worst fears. It is a vicious cycle and, in the end, the demanding partner may start to give up the search for connection, grieve the relationship and move away.


    1. Freeze and Flee.

    No one is reaching for anyone here. In this dialogue, both partners feel helpless and neither partner is taking any risks. We are not wired to tolerate this kind of isolation. And if nothing changes, the relationship goes into freefall.


    If you think you and your partner are caught in the demon dialogues, know there is hope. When we understand what love is about, what our needs and fears are, we can find our way back to each other.


    John Gallagher, LMHC has been a practicing therapist for over 20 years and specializes in both individual and couples’ therapy. Schedule your appointment today.

    Therapy services available via Telehealth.