Joshua Tree Counseling

How to Break Relationship Conflicts or “Loops!”


Loops are negative interactions between two people in which each reaction heightens the conflict.  For example, if one person is demanding, the other person will often withhold.  Or if one expresses an emotion, the other may be overly logical.  If one pursues, the other will probably distance.  Here’s what the bible says about loops:

  1. Don’t have ‘em!  Romans 12:17 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”
  2. Don’t respond to ‘em (in the expected negative way).  Proverbs 17:19 says, “He who loves a quarrel loves sin; he who builds a high gate invites destruction.”  So don’t build a “high gate!”  Remember: You don’t have to accept an invitation to every argument you’re invited to!  Proverbs 15:1 says “a soft answer turns away wrath.”
  3. Don’t start ‘em!  Romans 4:15 says, “The law produces wrath.”  Too many rules and regulations produce more bad reactions on the other person’s part.  An atmosphere of “grace” (not rules) must prevail in any home.

Christ was constantly invited into loops by the teachers of Jewish law.  These teachers elevated meaningless rules above relationship with a loving God.  They were threatened that Christ showed no regard for their man made rules, as when he healed a man on the Sabbath (which was forbidden by the “law”).  Here’s an example of how the Jewish teachers tried to invite Christ into a “loop”: Christ was asked if people should pay taxes to Caesar.  This question was designed to start a fight.  Jesus asked to see a Roman coin and asked whose image was on the coin.  Of course, the image was that of Caesar.  Then Jesus said in Luke 20:25, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.”  Christ did not accept this invitation to a fight.

Here are six good ways to break relationship loops:

1.)  Always turn a complaint into a request (don’t demand).

2.)  Be curious, not reactive (don’t withhold).

3.)  Agree that no mindreading is allowed in your relationship.

4.)  Ask the other person what he/she meant by their statement, or ask what they thought you meant by your statement.  The meaning that we attribute to the actions and words of others is usually the reason for conflict.

5.)  Ask yourself, “How do I invite the behavior I hate?”  Examine your own loop with God.  If you are “looping” with someone, there is something amiss with your relationship with God, and He can tell you exactly what that is and how you are resisting Him.

6.)  Temporarily disengage from the conversation.  Whoever disengages takes responsibility for telling the other person when he/she will reengage, then must initiate the re-engagement.  Even just slowing the conversation down may save the day!

Here’s the best idea yet: Create POSITIVE loops.  Foster good will.


“Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice” (Psalm 112:5).

“Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38).

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

There are many more loop busters.  Loops are usually symptomatic of unmet relational needs such as affection and approval.  Unforgiveness and family-of-origin issues can also play a part. The concept of loops is one of the paradigms I look through in marriage counseling. In counseling we can usually get to the bottom of each partner’s vulnerabilities that allow them to get trapped in any of the loop roles such as being the demander or the withholder. This work usually takes time! By the way, I list a few scriptures to illustrate that any counseling principles or techniques that work are either mentioned directly in the Bible or illustrated by biblical stories. 

2 thoughts on “How to Break Relationship Conflicts or “Loops!”

  • July 24, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Dr. Weld, I was lead here to this post by the graphic image that was posted; from Bing. I enjoyed reading your article and the tips to create the Loops. thank you, E. Michelle

    • November 6, 2014 at 6:17 am

      Thank you, Michelle. About half of the counseling that I do is marriage counseling. First, I help couples understand loops and develop better communication skills. Then I help them to identify and meet each others relational needs. With a foundation of faith in Christ and with the prominence of prayer and standing on God’s word, I’ve found this approach to be the most effective way to help couples. But starting the marriage counseling by helping the couple to break loops gives the couple practical interventions that encourage them that they can change the negative marriage patterns. The “loop busters” are important tools to have in our tool box. Thanks for your comment!

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