Relational Rollercoaster – Down We Drop!

Today we continue in a series called “Relational Rollercoaster” at Gateway Church in Austin. John Burke shared the following insights:

“Why do two people who love each other more than any other seem to struggle so much? Why does love so often feel like a rollercoaster? And how can we get off the crazy ride, and instead connect with a lasting, growing kind of love like God intended?

At the core, we all long for a marriage that’s a safe harbor from the storms of life. Marriage is sacred because it’s meant to be a microcosm of what God promises to all who enter a relationship with Him. Marriage is designed to be a microcosm of God’s relationship to us—where we offer each other what God offers us—full acceptance despite our flaws and sins, unconditional love, forgiveness, a love that will never abandon the us – where someone is for us not against us. And this is why Jesus said loving God first is the greatest commandment. We need God’s help to love as He loves. Because we live in a broken world where people remain disconnected from God, so we hurt one another and we react and live out of our hurts and the lies we heard growing up.

When we can’t identify these deeper feelings and to stop and ask ourselves: ‘What is this really about? What do I really want?’ then we end up in what Sue Johnson calls Demon Dialogues—these Rollercoaster Arguments that spin us up and down, around and around, and make you want to throw up!

Here are some of these demon dialogues:

1. The Runaway Blame Train: We jump on the blame train when we feel hurt, vulnerable, or out of control–emotional safety is lost, and our alarm goes off—primal panic. The truth is we’re trying to protect ourselves, but what we do is mutually attack each other–make accusations, and go back and forth blaming the other person for what’s wrong.

Once we get caught in the negative pattern we start to expect it, watch for it, and keep one finger on the trigger at all times.

So how do you stop the runaway blame train? The key is that someone has to have the courage to put on the brakes. One of you has to say something to queue what’s going on. Remind your spouse: ‘You are not my enemy.’

1 Peter 5:5-6: ‘All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.’ God wants to give us power to stop the Blame Train, and to apologize and own anything we did to hurt the other.

2. ​Blazing Fury: One partner demands or criticizes, maybe in an angry way—this causes the other to step back and withdraw. The demanding, criticizing person is really reaching out for connection or assurance, but in an unproductive and a negative way. So instead of just saying, ‘I miss you, I’m feeling distance–I’m feeling afraid that you don’t want to be with me.’ That’s too vulnerable, so instead the primal panic causes us to demand or criticize, ‘you’re always late.’

How do you get off the Blaze of Fury? First, remember this: ‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity’ (Colossians 3:12-14). God really wants to help you learn to respond in new ways—remembering that you are already Safe and Dearly Loved by the Maker of the Universe—remembering that can help you stop demanding, criticizing or running away to protect yourself—You ARE safe in Christ.

Then see what’s happening and point it out.

3. Mr. Freeze: – the scariest Rollercoaster of all–feels like the bottom dropped out, because it leads both people to a hopeless, shut down, frozen state emotionally. This often evolves from the protesting person finally becoming hopeless and giving up and both people shutting down to protect themselves emotionally.

Its never hopeless when God is in the picture, and He is the author of love and the one who wired us to need him and to need others. God wants to help us live in the lasting love we desire and He intended—but we must let him melt our frozen hearts, and heal us and strengthen us, so we are not stranded in hopelessness.

How do you get off this Rollercoaster? If you’re feeling hopeless—you can’t change the heart of that other person, but you can let God change your heart. And I’ve seen it again and again—when one willing heart softens, heals, learns to fully submit to God’s will and ways—no matter how scary or risky it feels—often this is the salve that heals the marriage, and you do it by taking risks.

And if you’re single—what tendencies do you see in yourself—are you connected in spiritual relationships here at Gateway? Go after it now—who you become single determines how prepared you are to make love last. We can help each other prepare now!

What is your next step to become a healthy person and have healthy relationships? Do you need to get in a small group, read some of the books suggested, ask for help, and/or connect with God?”

To listen or watch this message as shared by John Burke at the McNeil campus, go to or watch below:

Relational Rollercoaster: Down We Drop | May 15, 2011 from Gateway Church on Vimeo.

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