Identify the degenerative communication spiral found in Fireproof.

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A "degenerative communication spiral" is an interpersonal communication concept coined by John Stewart in his book Bridges Not Walls. The concept is rooted in how misunderstanding, miscommunication, and poorly managed conflict can progressively damage a relationship. In the movie Fireproof, a married couple is struggling with a degenerative communication spiral, and the plot revolves around Caleb's efforts to reconnect with his wife, Catherine, through a spiritual challenge called the "Love Dare." Through the Love Dare, Caleb is able to change the patterns within himself that have kept him from connecting fully with Catherine, and through his committed learning and practice of unconditional love, Catherine comes to connect with him in return.

The major facets of the degenerative communication spiral found in Caleb's and Catherine's relationship are that they both feel undervalued in the relationship, they have different priorities that they cannot seem to reconcile, they argue about details instead of discussing the roots of their problem, and they approach conflicts with anger or avoidance instead of openness and self-disclosure. A degenerative communication spiral has a tendency to "spiral" because these aspects reinforce and enable each other. They are also often a result of deeper conflicts that the individuals aren't able to process or discuss. In Fireproof, Caleb and Catherine both have stressful jobs (he as a fire captain and she working in a hospital). They have different schedules that cause them to not have a lot of quality time together, or even time to discuss daily expectations and needs. In addition, Catherine has the financial and personal stress of taking care of her elderly mother, and she feels angry that Caleb wants to buy a boat with their savings instead of pay off her mother's medical bills. Another wedge between the couple is Caleb's addiction to internet porn, and Catherine's subsequent feeling of inadequacy and misunderstanding. These conflicts all form the context in which a degenerative communication spiral is apt to arise. Through the Love Dare, Caleb is able to recognize some of the patterns and deeper conflicts that have caused the spiral, and, witnessing his changed behavior and selfless acts of love, Catherine is able to also recognize the spiral and change as well.

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Fireproof depicts the degenerative communication spiral as existing between Caleb and Catherine because they have not found anything substantive to root their communication process.  Both husband and wife experience a communication that is degenerating, withering away under the searing heat caused by a lack of focus and guidance.  She considers him selfish, driven by his own needs, and spiritually unfaithful with his perceived addiction to internet porn.  He feels that she devalues him and refuses to acknowledge his own worthiness in the world.  Both of them are experiencing a spiral of degenerative communication because of their operating from different points of reference.  She takes refuge in straying outside of their marriage as a result of the degenerative spiraling breakdown in communication.  

When Caleb undertakes the "love dare," it becomes a means of stopping the downward spiral of communication.  The lack of focus is replaced with a condition of focus as provided by a faith in Christianity.  This purpose driven existence is what replaces the degenerative condition of communication with an ascent to that which is perceived as meaningful and worthwhile.  It is the dare to love openly and with a sense of transcendence that enables Caleb and Catherine to stop the spiral of degenerative communication.

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