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Chapter 5: The Dance of Wounds

“The more I _________, the more you _________ and then the more I _________, and round and round we go.”
– Sue Johnson


Chapter 5 Summary – The Dance of Wounds:

When the honeymoon begins to wane and one partner begins to get the impression that these primary needs are ignored too much by the other partner, it can create what is called primary distress and the dance of wounds begins.  The fight is one! In this chapter Martin presents the dance of wounds or simply put, the fighting most couples follow. This is where marriage counselling might be a good idea, before these fights get too dirty. These conflictual interactions tend to be reciprocal, patterned, spiral, and repetitive. The action of one partner causes a reaction in the other partner. This dance is reciprocal in that one event modifies another which in turn modifies the first. It is never possible to find out who really started it, although couples at the beginning of therapy are most willing to point fingers and shout that it is “all your fault!”  The dance of wounds is a power struggle, nay, a struggle for survival, fueled by the fear of loss.  I fear that if I lose your love and your partnership, I will lose a whole lot of myself. Often, in couples therapy, partners tell me how frustrated and resentful they are to allow themselves to be so effected by what their partner might say and do.

What is going on here is, in fact, family of origin pre-existent wounds are playing in the relationships and, as a result, needs and expectations are left unfulfilled, love feels deprived and the closeness that used to be that “falling in love” has gone out the window. Neither partner is mindful enough to stop the dance, or still too fearful to begin couples therapy in order to take the time to see what is going on between them, let alone to become aware of their own contribution to the problem or to know their own steps in the dance of wounds.

As the honeymoon comes to an end and the veil of illusion falls away, the dance of wounds moves into high gear. This can open a wonderful opportunity for partners to examine and work on unfinished business and unresolved family of origin issues.  Any call for growth and change needs to be, first and foremost, a call to look at and change oneself. Cognitive behavioural therapy or anger management might be needed. When I make myself a better person, be that through psychotherapy or counselling, and I can secure a better self understanding, I also become a better mate and lover for my partner.