Conflict in relationship – it sucks. You know how it goes.
She says this. He says that. She gets angry. He gets pissed. Something hurtful is said somewhere along the way. Both of you are triggered and feel really unsafe.
Two individuals, supposedly together, spin down separate rabbit holes. Thoughts fly off the handle.
Do I have a future with this person?
Is this going to work?
How many times can we do this?
You leave the interaction, all worked up. Or maybe with a mutual decision to revisit it later. Regardless, an inner frequency screams, You’re not safe.
A few hours pass, or day or two, before you connect with your partner again. What happens to you?
Do you badger yourself with questions like…
Why did I say that?
How can I make it better?
What can I do to make him (or her) love me again?
For reference sake, let’s call this person #1.
Or maybe you’re filled with blame and projection, thinking…
He always acts like that.
She wants too much from me.
She/he is so insecure.
We’ll call this person #2.
Or maybe you just shut it all out. F*#k it, I don’t want to deal with this shit. I’m going to have a drink.
Or you calm down and say to yourself, It’ll be okay. Give her/him some time.
Which one of the above are you?
Whichever you are, the common denominator is the opportunity to be with yourself in the aftermath. A chance to see how you hold yourself. How you are in healthy self-relationship or not.
And yet most people won’t go there — self-inquiry. They’ll repeat the same patterns again and again, instead of doing the work of growth and change. But that’s not you or else you wouldn’t be reading this.
“The way out of a trap is to know the way the trap is built. Only then will it cease being a trap.”
― Marguerite Beecher, Beyond Success and Failure
Ok, what’s your trap? Let’s unwind the dynamics above.
If you’re person #1, you want to make things better before you’ve even had a chance to be with yourself. You’re what’s called a Fixer or Rescuer.
I know that path well and lived it for many years. I even wrote a book with Fixing You in the title.
As a Fixer, your job during and after conflict is to be with yourself. To self-regulate. Deep breaths. Meditation. Walks. Whatever it takes.
Forget about your partner for a little bit. Reduce the energy put into thoughts of — Will she leave me? Will she still love me? How can I make it better?
Most of all, stop fixing your partner as a way of avoiding yourself. No more – if she’s ok, I can be ok. That’s called self-betrayal. Instead, ask yourself — How can I be ok? How can I take care of myself? Time to be selfish.
If you’re person #2, you’re a blamer. It’s all blame, shame, and projection. You’re essentially doing the same thing as person #1, but your target is your partner, instead of yourself. You don’t try to fix but instead, you’re ready for war.
Like person #1, you’re not dealing with what’s inside of you – the hurt, the disappointment, the sadness. All you act on is the top emotion of anger. And yet underneath anger is sadness. Get to your sadness.
In blaming, you project the hurt you feel onto your partner as a way of not dealing with yourself. Maybe they did actually do something wrong or say something stupid or hurtful, how can you come to them with strength and compassion?
For both persons #1 and #2, it’s all about noticing what’s happening within you, the emotions you feel. This takes work. When the work is not done, outcomes include lifelong codependency, victim consciousness, adultery, drug addiction, violence, and worse.
Person #3 is an abdicator. He or she kicks the can down the road, checks out, and numbs. Again another way of not dealing with self and hard feelings. No good relational outcomes come for this person either.
Person #4 is actually the healthiest. She self-regulates by not freaking out. He understands that time heals and gives perspective. She cuts herself some slack. He gets out of his reptilian fight or flight system.
And yet, what is not stated for person #4 is healthy self-reflection. To ask — Did I contribute to the conflict? If so, how can I take responsibility for my part?
Person #4 is not the norm. To get to this place takes grit and perseverance — working your way out of the trap of reactivity, cultivating healthy self-relationship, and self-responsibility.
You do not project, blame, fix, or numb. Instead, you take responsibility and honor yourself and your partner. What’s that look like?
Learn more next week in a piece entitled, “Release The Damage, Step Into Repair.”
Previously Published on stuartmotola.com