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Monthly Archives: May 2014
The other day while we were driving in the car, Christian was angry.
Not at me. He was frustrated that we didn’t have a clear plan for the direction of our work. So I did what any loving wife would do. I got mad at him for being mad.
You may have heard the saying, “You become like who you are around.” Mostly what is meant by the saying, is that If you hang out with people who are not successful and playing big, chances are YOU will not be successful or play big. If you hang out with people who are depressed and negative, YOU may find yourself feeling pessimistic and low too.
There is another way this dynamic plays out in relationship. When Christian gets mad about something, I get mad at him for being mad. I become like him. Which doesn’t help, by the way, it just accelerates his anger, because he now adds “being mad at me for being mad at him” to the mix. When he withdraws, I punish him for withdrawing by withdrawing myself. When he judges, I judge him for judging. Christian does the same with me. And we both do it with our kids.
This plays out so fast that we barely notice how we “become just like who we are around.”
Now, it is NOT my intention for us to both be pissed, withdrawn and judgmental. Even though that is what gets produced. And I know it is the same for you – that when you “match” your partner’s moods or thoughts, you are not wanting a miserable experience either!
Our unconscious positive intention in matching our partner’s emotion is for the bad feelings to go away and the good ones to return. For example, some part of me actually believes that if I get mad at him for being mad, he will quit being mad! Crazy, eh?
What to do to change this dynamic?
First thing is to notice it. Become aware that you are becoming exactly like the behavior or emotion you are resisting.
Next, is to replace your resistance and annoyance with compassion. Say to yourself, “We are the same. We feel the same.” This will soften your heart.
Lastly, understand that underneath anger, is a pure innocent desire for love, connection and all things good. Reach out in love from this place and you will notice, that your partner will begin to “become like who they are around.”
Don’t you hate it when he says, “I’m fine”, but you know there’s something going on? Don’t you hate it when he insist on staying in denial and just keeps saying, “I’m okay!” when it’s obvious to you that he’s either lying or being oblivious?
And don’t you hate it when you’re minding your own business, and she comes over and starts prodding you with, “Is everything okay?” or, “Is there something we should talk about”? And don’t you hate it when you say, “No, I’m fine, really, nothing’s going on”, and she just keeps on pressing and pressing, and pretty soon you end up arguing about absolutely nothing!
Don’t you hate it when he just wants to go to bed and “sleep on it”, but you’re laying there totally unable to sleep with all that emotion running. You just want to talk it out, so you can go to bed at ease, feeling connected again, and sleep in the knowledge that you’re okay.
And don’t you hate it when she has to make a big deal of everything and talk-talk-talk but you have to get up at 5:30 am and you really do need some sleep? And if you could just sleep on it, it would probably pass all by itself, since it was nothing important to begin with?
Obviously, the differences between men and women could fill a whole library of books (and has!). Here, we want to point out a crucial difference, that trips up most of us at different times, and that is our different responses to feeling stressed, or triggered.
Both women and men under stress aim for reducing their stress levels, in that way we’re all the same. We all want to feel less stressed and calm ourselves down.
But HOW we do it is totally opposite. As a matter of fact, it’s one of those places where you might wonder if Nature screwed up just a bit, because how women and men attempt to reduce their respective stress levels seem to only INCREASE the stress when they’re taken together.
In short, women try to make themselves feel better by talking, connecting, coming closer, sharing. Men, on the opposite hand, try to accomplish the same result by going inwards, going to silence, having internal conversations in their head, or “taking space”.
You can see how a woman and man in relationship would trigger each other more when they try to reduce their own stress levels, yes? The more she tries to talk and connect, the less space he has to make himself feel better. And the more he tries to “take space” or go away, the more it seems to her that he’s avoiding her, and she has to talk louder and pull on him, and he gets even more stubborn, and she gets louder …. it’s a mess!
It’s not all hopeless, of course. Watch the short video for a few simple, powerful ideas for having the whole thing be easier.