The Cycle that Almost Ruined My Marriage

“I’m an awful mom”

“How could I be so stupid?”

“This marriage is doomed and it’s probably my fault”

“I should’ve known better.”

“Why can’t I change. What’s wrong with me?”

“I’m broken.”

If you’ve said any of these or similar statements to yourself, then you’re gonna wanna continue reading.

We’re going to explore why these phrases we lob at ourselves like grenades with the hope that they’ll make us better parents or partners, are actually having the opposite effect. 

Who’s Talking?

Hi! I’m Dr. Lynyetta Willis. As a psychologist and family empowerment coach, I help frustrated families break free from stable misery, so they can feel more connected to their partner, confident as parents, and joyful in life.

I have been honored to journey with countless individuals, parents, couples, and families for over 20 years. And today, I’m happy to be here with you!

How Many Would You Have Left?

In our last post of this series we explored what a trigger is and used the metaphor of a train – the Trigger Train – to explore 3 mindset shifts you must make about triggers in order to truly begin the process of transforming them. 

In today’s video we’re going to explore some shifts you must make towards yourself in order to transform your triggers.

Let me ask you this, if you talked to your friends like you talk to yourself, how many friends would you have left?

If you’re anything like I used to be, maybe not as many as you’d like. 

Why Do We Beat Up On Ourselves?

To understand this, I like to take a page from psychology’s inner child work and parts work.  These frameworks suggest that though we appear to be one person, we actually have many parts within us. And these parts have agendas and personalities.

I’m sure at some point you’ve said something like, “part of me wants chocolate ice cream, but another part of me wants vanilla.”


Think of your triggered reactions – the yelling, the shaming – as parts of you (not all of you). But oftentimes, young parts of you that carry backpacks filled with your pain, your sense of powerlessness, or your fears. 

They sleep until the pain, powerlessness, or fear they’re carrying is triggered by your child or partners behavior.

During those moments, they wake up and react in oftentimes unhelpful ways to relieve the pain, feel more empowered, or calm the fear writhing around in those backpacks.

Let me give you an example.

The Cycle that Almost Ruined My Marriage

My husband and I would enter into a cycle that ended with those younger parts of myself often attacking me with hurtful words and phrases. 

Earlier in my marriage, when my husband and I were stuck in Stable Misery®, I would often feel a sense of powerlessness; like I couldn’t fix what seemed to be broken within me or within our marriage.

When this sense of powerlessness got really intense – usually during an argument – parts of me would get triggered, take over, and start yelling or blaming him. 

Then, for brief moments, I would feel a sense of power… like I was getting control… but as the dust settled, I’d realized that those parts of me were only creating more fear and more pain. 

Attacking him seldom worked. I would feel MORE broken.

So in order to lessen that pain and powerlessness, those parts of me, would turn inward and start attacking me – 

“what’s wrong with you… get it together… if you weren’t so stupid…

God, how are you helping people and you can’t even help yourself.

No wonder your father left and never came back – you’re not worth coming back for”


Could you imagine saying those things to a friend…

or god forbid a child?!

Well, I was sayin’ em to myself over and over and over again.

How about you?

What do you say to yourself over and over and over again?

The Damage Done

Looking back, as hard as it is to believe, I now realize that these parts within me had the best of intentions; they were trying to help with some “tough love”… but it was having the opposite impact.

What these parts of me and possibly a few parts within you don’t understand is that we can’t do well when we feel bad. 

When I felt less than and not enough.  

I would overwork to prove my worth.

I would unleash the 4 horseman – pain, blame, shame, and avoidance- onto my marriage to try to gain some sense of power.

Even after my son was born, I developed an intense fear of anxiety and regret, that I was doing this parenting thing wrong… that I was forgetting something.

This fear kept me up at night and on edge during the day. 

How do ya think that impacted how I showed up in my family?

So ya see?

When these parts of me that carried powerlessness, pain, and fear were triggered, they were unwittingly plunging me and my family further into Stable Misery® by repeating the same unhelpful cycles and patterns. 

Can you relate to any of this? 

How do the parts of you that carry pain, powerlessness, or fear impact how you show up in your marriage? As a parent?

Take a look back at the last time you felt triggered by someone you love, what fear, pain, or powerlessness cycles or patterns do you notice?   

Sooo, What’s Your Next Best Step?

If you can relate to these cycles, I’m guessing your next logical question is,

“sooo what do I do about it? How do I help heal my marriage from the inside (of me), out?”

“How do I become the parent I deeply want to be without drowning in guilt, fear, or overwhelm?”

Today we’re going to explore 3 ways we can do this.

A. Self-compassion.

The initial reaction is to want to eliminate the part of you that comes out at you. We even call it names that would make it easy to do … saboteur, inner critic, inner demons!

But this ironically has the opposite impact. Remember, these are parts of you… likely young parts of you that carry YOUR fear, YOUR pain, and YOUR powerlessness collected over decades. 

They want to help… they’ve been helping… imagine if those backpacks of pain randomly spilled out every five minutes at work or when you’re sleeping, at parties. 

These parts of you take their security jobs very seriously and attacking them only creates more fear, pain, and powerlessness.

The key is to do what feels unnatural … bring them… yourself compassion.

Self-compassion. This was THE most important practice I had to start in order to stop this self-shaming spiral I was in.

Speaking to those hard-working parts within you and saying things like,  “you made a mistake… and you’re worthy of love. or “You yelled AGAIN…. and you’re worthy of forgiveness” can work wonders.

B. Get to the root of what’s growing in your relationship.

What do you fear?

End of your marriage? Screwing up your kids? 

What’s causing the pain? Unresolved issues from your childhood? Unresolved issues in your marriage? 

Where are you feeling a lack of power?  Your ability to get your kids to listen? Your ability to get your partner to engage? 

To truly heal your most sacred relationships, you gotta get to the root of the pain, fear, and powerlessness that’s poisoning them. Only at the root can you really impact what’s blooming in your relationships. 

C. Invite your parts to tea time –

This last strategy may feel counterintuitive.

“Wait, invite those parts that are attacking me in for tea?!?!”

YES! invite them in for some tea and journaling. Get to know them and their tendencies.

When do the parts carrying pain, powerlessness, and fear, tend to show up?

When they do show up, what they tend to say or do to try and keep the pain or powerlessness locked in that backpack? 

Write what you learn about them in a journal and then just start to notice.  

Awareness is your best friend. 

One More Time!

So there you have it, in order to start transforming your triggers and your most sacred relationships, you’ve got to begin by transforming your relationship with yourself. 

  • Practice self-compassion. Develop a mantra you can practice to sooth those parts of you that get triggered and tend to react in unhelpful ways. 
  • Get to the root of what’s growing in your relationship. Get clear on the roots of your pain, powerlessness and fear so you can heal them. 
  • And lastly, plan a tea party! Instead of trying to banish those parts of you, invite them in for tea and get to know them. 

The more you know about them and why they do what they do, the better you can impact how you show up in your relationships. 

Let me know, what’s one way you can show compassion towards those triggered parts carrying your pain, powerlessness, or fear this week?

Comment below and I’ll see ya next time!

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