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Breaking the Groundhog-Day-Loop In Your Relationships

by Candace Gudgeon on September 06, 2022

One of the funniest movies I’ve seen recently is Groundhog Day. It’s a hilarious film from the ‘90s where a man named Phil wakes up on the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over again. My favorite part of the movie was the sequence of scenes where he tries ridiculous strategies to escape the Groundhog Day loop—including driving himself and Pux the groundhog off a cliff! One of the most frustrating parts of his predicament was that Phil found himself having the same conversations and interactions over and over again for years. No matter what he tried, he always woke up in his bed at 6A.M. on February 2nd. Phil didn’t break out of this loop until he stopped trying to change the world around him, and learned to change himself.

Thankfully, none of us can relate to literally waking up on the same day every day. But many of us can relate to feeling like we are stuck in a Groundhog Day loop in our relationships. We seem to be having the same painful or toxic conversations over and over and it can feel like, no matter who we talk to, relationships tend to end up the same way. As a mental health therapist, I get a front row seat to these situations. I may have someone come in frustrated with their boss at work. As a result of their frustration, they quit. Yet months into their new job they find themselves frustrated and quitting their job again! This pattern can also show up in friendships. I’ve seen people build friendships that quickly fall apart or turn unhealthy—over and over this repeats. By the time these people walk into my office they are feeling tired, disappointed, and they are struggling to believe that they can have the healthy, long-lasting relationships that they dream of. They feel that, no matter how they try to change their surroundings, the result is always the same in the end.

However, just like the main character of Groundhog Day, we all need to remember that change originates within us. Phil didn’t break out of the loop until he realized that he is what really needed to change before the world around him would change. That principle counts for us in our relationships as well. If we don’t change, nothing else will. We will continue to experience the same relationship patterns until we are willing to take responsibility. Now I realize that, in order to experience healthy relationships, sometimes it can be hard to know where you need to start changing your own habits. Here are two simple questions to help get you thinking.

Question 1: Am I the kind of friend that I want to have?

Whenever someone comes to my office and shares that they struggle to find good friends, the first thing that I ask them is what they look for in a friend. Then, together we make a list of about five to ten qualities that usually include being: a good listener, trustworthy, loyal, consistent, and other vital attributes—not just of a good friend but of a healthy person. After we make that list I ask if my client possesses all of these attributes themselves. Many times we find attributes that my client wants to have in a friend but struggles to portray themselves. They may want a friend that is trustworthy, but they personally struggle with gossiping. Or they want a friend who is consistent but they personally struggle to be consistent in reaching out to their current friends. We have to remember that we attract what we release. The better you are as a friend the more you will attract people who are good friends. I encourage you to make a list of qualities you want in a friend and to be honest with yourself as you measure it up to qualities that you may or may not have. Then put these healthy qualities into practice and watch how your circle of friends changes!

Question 2: Am I making my relationships today pay for the pain others have caused me in the past?

We have all experienced hurt in our relationships, and many of us try to find ways to move on. However, if we try to move on without actually healing that hurt, we can find ourselves perpetually acting out of our hurt You can think of it this way: If you don’t heal your wounds, you will bleed on those who didn’t cut you. Here is an example. If conflict has caused others to abandon you in the past, then, at the first sign of conflict you may reject others in order to protect yourself from the pain of abandonment. Another example could be in a dating relationship. Maybe you have been cheated on in the past. The pain of that infidelity makes you suspicious of your significant other and you assume this person will cheat on you like the last person did. These are both examples of someone bleeding on the people who haven’t cut them. I encourage you to think about what unhealthy patterns you may be bringing into relationships based on previous pain or trauma. Work to heal those wounds so that you can start to reform those destructive habits. You may need the help of a pastor, mentor or therapist to identify those wounds and help you walk through the process of healing. 

As you consider these questions, I pray that the Lord reveals to you where you can grow so that you can walk confidently in the relationships he has set before you. With Christ, and with a regular habit of reflecting on your own patterns, you can break out of your Groundhog Day loop and start moving forward in healthy relationships.


Tags: habits, character, pain, relationships, friendship, fruit, destructive, healing trauma

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