Coping Strategies

When we perceive people with our relationship model lenses, we're respond with a negative, sometimes painful experience. We cope with these negative feelings by doing one or more of the following coping strategies. The problem with these coping strategies is that they reinforce the underlying beliefs that triggered the negative feelings, and often the coping behaviors damage our relationships further. That's why our coping strategies show up as repeating behavioral patterns throughout our lives.

  • Avoid/Withdraw

    • Avoid activating situations mentally or physically

    • We detach or distance ourselves from people, physically or emotionally in order to dampen or escape negative feeling

      • Excessive autonomy, social withdrawal, stimulation-seeking, addictive self-soothing or psychological disassociation

    • Avoidant behavior can sever connections, prevent intimate relationships from forming, or create social isolation

    • Avoidance brings short term relief, but at the cost of being disconnected from our thoughts and feelings, making it a harder habit to break in the long run

  • Surrender

    • Distort perception of reality by attempting to make reality support their models

    • Passive inaction to confirm our reality

      • We surrender to our false beliefs by misinterpreting events and rationalizing behavior to be consistent and not challenge these beliefs

      • We are also compliant and agree with model-confirming treatment even though it may hurt us or our relationships

    • We are comforted by having our (false) worldview validated and consistent

    • Results in experience negative emotions but also positive in feeling their world is predictable

  • Overcompensate/Attack

    • Engaging in activities they believe will help them deny their models by attempting to disprove their models to themselves and others

      • Attempts never fully work and leave people unsettled, ironically perpetuating the strength of the models

    • Proactive actions that prevent our reality from being challenged but hurt others as a side-effect

      • Aggression, dominance, excessive self-assertion, manipulation or rebellious behavior

      • We overwork to convince ourselves and others that our relationship models aren't true

        • Example: If we believe that we are worthless or defective we may strive to have careers or positions that society deems successful

      • Gaining success from overworking brings some relief but the underlying negative feelings persist

    • At extreme levels the overwork can make us neglect the needs of our partners or our own

    • Connection with partners is severed every time they're attacked

These coping strategies bring short-lived relief at a great cost and prevent us from confronting and change our relationship models.

In relationships, many maladaptive coping strategies can be found, leading to a destructive behavioral patterns. Many coping strategies are learned from watching our family or behavior permeating in culture.

Common Coping Strategies For Relationship Models

Often people have a mix of coping strategies depending on their models. Sometimes people will use one coping behavior with one relationship but not the other. For example, a Self-Sacrificer might be angry at a colleague who didn't reciprocate a favor, but with their romantic parter, they continue prioritizing their needs over their own. Also note that some coping behaviors are the same for different models. Knowing one coping behavior won't be enough to infer their models.

Next to the model names is an alias that reflects the type of behaviors you'd expect to observe from those possessing the model. For example, it's not uncommon to find Self-Sacrificers helping other people, or those with Unrelenting Standards to excel in their professional lives.

  • Self-Sacrificing | The Helper

    • Avoidance

      • Avoids close relationships

    • Surrender

      • Self-denial, does too much for others, not themselves

    • Overcompensate

      • Becomes angry at partner for not meeting their needs, decides not to do anything for them anymore (denying they need to do things for others with a risky confrontation)

  • Abandonment | The Clinger

    • Avoidance

      • Avoid relationships altogether

    • Surrender

      • Selecting partners who are unavailable or unpredictable

    • Overcompensate

      • Clingy, possessive, or controlling (possible by denying they will ultimately be abandoned)

  • Mistrust | The Suspecter

    • Avoidance

      • Avoids relationships, does not self-disclose

    • Surrender

      • Choose untrustworthy partners, overly suspicious of them

    • Overcompensate

      • Exploits others, acts overly trusting (disproves people can't be trusted)

  • Exclusion | The Solitarian

    • Avoid/Withdraw

      • Avoids socializing

    • Surrender

      • Becomes part of a group but doesn't fully join in

    • Overcompensate

      • Puts on a fake persona in groups (makes them feel no excluded)

  • Entitlement | The Dominator

    • Avoidance

      • Avoids situations where they cannot excel or stand out

    • Surrender

      • Has unequal/uncaring relationships, selfish behaviors, disregards needs/feelings of others

    • Overcompensate

      • Extravagant gifting, charitable contributions (disprove selfishness)

  • Dependence | The Over-reliant

    • Avoidance

      • Procrastinate, avoid acting independently

    • Surrender

      • Asks for help excessively, checks decisions with others, chooses overprotective partners

    • Overcompensate

      • Demonstrate excessive self-reliance

  • Emotional Deprivation | The Demander

    • Avoidance

      • Avoids relationships

    • Surrender

      • Chooses cold, detached partners

    • Overcompensate

      • Makes unrealistic demands that partner meet all their needs

  • Defectiveness | The Critic

    • Avoidance

      • Avoid sharing shameful thoughts with partner

    • Surrender

      • Chooses critical partners, self-deprecates

    • Overcompensate

      • Overcritical of others, tries to come across as perfect

  • Failure | The Defeatist

    • Avoidance

      • Procrastinates on work tasks, avoid setting career goals that are reasonable

    • Surrender

      • Sabotages work efforts, working below level of ability, compares themselves as a failure to others

    • Overcompensate

      • Perfectionist, diminish achievements of others (therefore making their failure not as bad in comparison)

  • Unrelenting Standards | The Overachiever

    • Avoidance

      • Avoids taking on work tasks, procrastinates

    • Surrender

      • Attempts to perform perfectly, set high standards for themselves and others

    • Overcompensate

      • Settles for below average performance (denying the need to achieve)

Other Destructive Behavioral Patterns

A certain pattern of behavior that repeats, runs in a cycle, or a consistent response/reaction to a particular situation between two people that deteriorates the relationship.

  • Blaming

  • Attacking

  • Accusations/criticisms/put-downs

  • Clinging

  • Claiming things like "I cannot live without you"

  • Stonewalling or withdrawing

  • Contempt

  • Defensiveness

  • Criticism

  • Controlling

  • Clinging after an argument

  • Distancing/avoidance

  • Partner falling into "friend dynamic"

  • Parenting your partner

  • Making the other persons experience wrong

  • Rationalization

  • Plausibly reasons a justification of an action or opinion

  • Repression

    • Refusing to be aware nor accept impulses, yet the act still has an unconsciously controlled behavior.

  • Displacement

    • Transferring defense mechanism from one object/person to another

    • Example, yelling at wife because husband can’t yell at boss

    • Using putdowns when worried about relationship security

    • Sublimation

      • Displacement towards constructive/socially acceptable behaviors

      • Example: Taking dance classes to help with suicidal thoughts

  • Intellectualization

    • Process of speaking about emotional pain or trauma that detaches the client from reliving those events.

  • Denial

    • Distorting reality to to avoid acknowledging unwanted emotions/feelings

  • Overt Impulse Denial

    • Example: gay man openly dates women and criticize gay men

  • Projection

    • Places unwanted feelings unto others

    • Example: Person believes everyone hates him, when he hates himself

  • Silent repair

    • Partner unconsciously undoes wrongdoings, like cheating, with gifts or being overly nice

  • Self-sabotaging relationships

  • Stonewalling when stressed