Ok you are in a bad space. Either it’s all fight or all flight or a mix of fight and flight. Maybe it’s cold shoulder time. Maybe “it’s all your fault” time. Any way it’s no good. Stop. Don’t escalate with tit for tat.
You can talk or listen. Choose listen. That is the best option most of the time.
Listen so the other will talk, open up, go deeper.
This takes courage. You may have to listen to outrageous crap. You may hear a whole pile of accusations. Or instructions on how to be a better person. Or hear lists of defects. Maybe examples from the past of irreparable blunders. Maybe ultimatums and threats. Maybe silence, listen too that too, what might it mean?
Decide to listen. The decision goes something like this. Drop all defence tactics. Stay, don’t move too far away. Assume goodwill. Postpone judgment. Leave behind sarcasm. Soften eyes and not roll them.
Maybe offer a few words, with curiosity… “I see…” “Is there more…”
2. See through the blame to the pain.
Step one is almost impossible unless you also do this step.
“You never…. do the dishwasher… you never initiate sex.” etc.
That’s blame.It is an attack. Never useful. Don’t do it. If your partner blames, it’s an opportunity. Don’t defend. There is no need. Your partner is in pain.
Take the leap to see the pain. Imagine this is your partner’s best way of saying I love you and I am in pain. The pain might be a feeling — scared, alone, sad, hopeless, despair. Why do they have these feelings? Always because you are important to them. They want deep connection. They would rather drive you away than not have you really there with them.
See right through to the base line. Anger is just a flag. So is frustration. See beyond these secondary layers to the desire for being loved and valued unconditionally forever. It’s not too much to ask. We all want that. You partner just has not got in touch with that … it’s still about the dishwasher.
Move from the life story to the love story.
3. Put words to what you imagine hurting your partner
Maybe listening and not reacting defensively has already helped. At least you have shut up. Maybe your body has softened. Maybe your partner can see it.
There is more you can do with imagination. Imagine crossing the gap between you and your partner. Imagine you are there in that messy world of pain with your partner. See the hurt as best you can. See the unmet need. See the hole that is at the source of the pain.
“I imagine when you see that dishwasher you sink into despair and think you will never get the love you want.”
Observe. Were you right? No?
Maybe the response is “I’m just angry”.
“You don’t feel despair- you are just angry.”
You get angry when you think it’s unfair and and how can you feel close when there is so much unresolved injustice.
Tune into the unmet need.
Keep going back to 1, 2 and 3. Don’t quit, stay courageous. Keep going to Step 3 till there is a clear yes.
5. Sum the logical truth.
“You want us to be close but while you think it’s not fair your anger gets in the way.
You make sense.
“When I walk to the dog before I give you a hug you think I don’t love you and you get scared I’ll leave. Thats just one example of something I do that means you feel alone.”
If you see this, and think this then you feel that.
Your partner always makes sense. You might not agree with their premise. Grasp the logic. They are not crazy!
5. Be with your partner. Don’t try to fix it.
Stay with the feelings — for what might seem like ages.
“I did not now how scared you get. That might be terrifying.”
Not terrified? More troubled and worried.
The fight is over when you tune into the exact feelings. Match them, so your partner knows you are there.
Now you might feel relieved?
Now what? You want to be listened to? You want your say?
Take a few more turns at listening. Make that 10 turns. Be a Buddha
Write in your journal. Go for a self talk walk.
Next post. How to talk so you get heard.
Please leave comments on how you got on with this radical outrageous over the top courageous listening.