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Understanding Relationship Dynamics

Relationship dynamics are the patterns that play out between people, in the ways we relate, interact and communicate with each other. A range of different dynamics play out in all of our relationships – in our romantic partnerships, between family members, friends, work colleagues, etc. Some dynamics are healthy and feel good to us, whereas others are dysfunctional and feel painful.  

Relationship dynamics often play out as repeating patterns. For example, you may find yourself having the same kind of argument with your partner over and over again. What you are arguing about (the content) might be different each time, but the dynamic playing out is the same – your partner is criticising and blaming you, and you feel hurt and react defensively. And in the same relationship, you may have other dynamics that are healthy, such as affirming each other’s loveability and goodness, through which there is a true meeting and seeing of each other.

Having an awareness, and understanding, of the dynamics of our relationships puts us in a position of empowerment. It helps us get clear on what is not working for us, so that we can address it, as well as what is working, so we can take time to appreciate it and invite more of it into our relationships.

An example of a very common dynamic that can happen both within ourselves – between different part of us – and in our relationship with others, is the drama triangle. In this dynamic, we find ourselves in the position of victim, persecutor or rescuer. Some of us may have a stronger tendency toward one of these positions than the other two, but usually the dynamic involves moving between all three positions. Awareness of how this dynamic can play out in our lives is the first step toward moving into a place of personal empowerment and greater harmony in our relationships.

Attachment theory is another very useful model for understanding some key dynamics of human relationships. Knowing our own attachment style tendencies can be extremely helpful for understanding our feelings and behaviours and navigating our relationships more effectively. Particularly our romantic relationships, including the partner(s) we choose and how we relate and communicate with them.

Perhaps the most important and powerful understanding we can have of relationship dynamics is that they are a reflection of the dynamics of our relationship with ourselves. The more we are in love, connection and harmony with ourselves, the more these qualities will be reflected in our relationships with others, whereas painful patterns can alert us to something happening within us that needs our loving attention.