Yes, resolving conflict is a worthy goal, and understanding “the problem” is also important. The biggest obstacles in couple communications, however, more often have to do with unlocking the heart and imagination of each partner to want to hear or listen to what the other says, to want to understand where each is coming from, and so on.
As discussed in Part 1, what you “see” subconsciously in your mind when you think of your partner and your relationship, or your “discussions” for that matter, may just be what you get.
There are are at least five prerequisites to unlocking your hearts — and subconscious minds — to break free of images and mindsets that keep each of you locked in reactive patterns, defensive showdowns, and the like.
It cannot be said too often to couples: choose words (and nonverbals) carefully in sensitive discussions, more specifically, to opt for ones that energize optimal emotional states. This can mean letting go of triggering words or actions, and breaking old habits is not easy. What if the life and health of your relationship depended on it however?
The fact is, words produce images in your mind. Images produce emotions, and emotions shape behaviors.
The fear response can be a great teacher. In Part 1 we looked at three ways fear is your friend as an action activating signal. So, how do we handle fear to produce optimal results and meaningful change, when we get triggered? As an example, lets’ say the fear has to do with going after what you most want due to a fear of failure.
This article outlines a seven step approach.
1. Recognize and feel your emotions courageously, pausing to breathe deeply and notice your experience.
This first step allows you to turn within to recognize your emotions as natural responses, as key information you want to connect to — rather than fear or dismiss. Taking deep long breaths and noticing your experience is a key way to be present, and it also helps to recognize your feelings with words that identify your emotions and describe what you feel upset about, such as,
Speaking of breaking free of the criticizing habit, a step discussed in Part 2, it’s a lot easier to achieve when you also shift your focus to wanting to understand what you each want, then actively giving or supporting each other to realize your wants and yearnings etc. – at minimum with the energy you bring. These two remaining steps strengthen your relationship, and are the subject of this post.
Step 4: Know What You Each Want — and Why
Step four consists of two parts: clearly understanding what you (really, really) want and why, and also what your partner wants and why.
Knowing what you want makes it more likely you will: (1) be heard and understood ; (2) say and express what you want in ways your partner can “listen” (not get triggered); (3) stay on topic focused on what is most relevant; and (4) eventually come to a mutually satisfying resolution.
Like it or not, you are the one constant in your couple relationship. If your couple relationship is on the rocks and you’re wondering why you seem to “attract” certain issues or partners, here’s a sobering thought (and potentially uplifting): What you bring to your relationship shapes you and your life. If you’re not consciously choosing what you bring, i.e., in terms of your intentions, thoughts, actions etc., you’re sitting on pure power, waiting to go to work for you.
In Part 1 we looked at the first two steps to shift “how you “argue” in ways that create an authentic connection between you and your partner. Here is step 3:
One way to think of transformative change is as an inner capacity you have to create the happiness and meaning in life that you’re naturally included to realize.
More specifically, it is a conscious way of thinking about your self and life that increasingly moves you in directions of seeking to learn and to keep stretching your ability to love your self and life around you, thus transforming your self and levels of happiness and meaning in the process.
In a nutshell, what you most aspire is a creative force in your life. Literally, you become what you most aspire. My clients often hear me say, “Be mindful of what you most want. You’ll succeed in creating it.”
Don’t take my word for it, do a quick check of what you’ve most yearned for from a child. In what ways do you have what you’re most focused on?
To understand yourself is to understand the nature of the power you have to literally create your own inner reality, thus inner resonance of energy, based on the belief systems you hold in your consciousness, of which you may or may not be aware. After all, most of the information that is collected by your senses is automatically ‘edited’ by your brain, and this editing is directly based on what you (learned to…) most deeply believe about yourself and world. Your beliefs (perceptions, interpretations, ways you explain the world in and around you…etc.) produce images in your mind and body to match the worldview you’ve been conditioned to believe.
Consider how your eyes have a blind spot where the optic nerve connects to the eye in the center of the retina. This part of your eye can’t see anything and your brain automatically weaves an imaginary picture together based on assumptions of what it expects from pre-conditioned experiences or beliefs. Hypnosis also give us indications of how ‘reality’ is created mostly inside us, and not ‘out there’ as most of us learn to believe.
These examples show how your life experience changes when you change one or more of your most basic assumptions …
In a recent study of predictors of infidelity in couple relationships, the findings overall indicated men and women overall seem to follow the stereotypes. The focus on sex, performance, variety and frequency tends to be driven by men, while the focus on emotional connection and nonsexual affection by women.
Drs. Mark, Janssen and Milhausen found no significant differences in rates of infidelity of men, with 23 percent for men and 19 percent for women, however, what predicted infidelity differed for men and women. Predictors for men in the study had more to do with personality traits, such as performance anxiety, a propensity for getting sexually excited by triggers, and so on, whereas relationship factors, such as emotional intimacy, partnership, etc., carried significantly more weight for women.
The reasons women cheat seem more related to unfulfilled expectations or failure, their own or partner’s, with regard to developing a deeper emotional connection. In contrast, author and sex addiction expert Robert Weiss states in an article on why men cheat that when it comes to sex, “men tend to be most aroused by a visual succession of body parts and sexual acts” where as women are “aroused by sexualized and romanticized emotional connections between people more than body parts.”
Human beings yearn to be loved, and feeling loved and valued connects us to feeling safe and secure. In a recent book titled, True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart, author and Zen monk Thich, offers couples a series of practices to help them deepen their connection to what he calls four components of love: loving kindness, compassion, joy and freedom.
One of these practices are four mantras for partners to verbalize out loud to one another or quietly to themselves, as needed. Creating love is about energizing greater intimacy. Genuine intimacy is an emotional state of being; it is more about how your choices affect the quality of energy inside you and your partner — and less about overt actions. If you are in a place where you feel totally safe from the world when you reach for your partner or are in your partner’s arms — and — they feel t0tally safe when they reach or are in yours … that’s genuine intimacy.
Couples can use the following mantras to create a sense of love and safety, personal and relational happiness:
What is this thing called ‘love’? Plato labeled love an ‘irrational desire,” and song titles such as “The Things We Do For Love,” as well as lyrics of songs such as “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” convey the befuddling impact love relationships can have on human brains. For human beings, men and women alike, there is perhaps no bigger fascination or obsession for the senses, heart and mind, body and spirit.
The good news from fields of neuroscience and intimacy (known as social neuroscience, attachment, affective neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience) is that up-close studies of the brain mechanisms underlying behavior in social relationships have taken much of the mystery out of our quest to understand couple relationships.
As Dr. Sue Johnson states in a recent book, Hold Me Tight, quite the contrary, love relationships seem to be governed by an “exquisite logic” that follows rather precise algorithms. Bonding behaviors, it turns out, are less of a mystery and more a science.
We now understand, for example, there are neurochemical reasons why we tend to make poor decisions in certain relational contexts.
In successful relationships, partners take the basics seriously, and handle the yearnings of each to feel heard and understood as unique beings as really, really important; in short, they treat one another with dignity, recognizing their own and one another’s personal power.
As top trial lawyer Gerry Spence notes, what we face when we interact with one another, is what we most fear in our relationships, and that is: the power of the other as an agent of their choices.
The other has the power, for example, to choose to say no, to deny some need, want or yearning, and so on, and because this directly challenges our own sense of personal power (to realize dreams, wants and needs), it touches our deepest intimacy fears, such as fear of inadequacy, rejection, abandonment.
Not surprisingly, this dynamic is particularly intense in couple relationships.