Linda: It is often difficult to tell when we are doing that which does not serve our self-interest. Perhaps we have not had good role models for handling differences, and consequently we have a learning deficit. We may not yet have developed the quality of courage to risk speaking our truth, so that we withdraw instead of negotiating for our needs in our partnership.
It may be challenging to even define the problem, and to discover what we can do to remedy it. If we have an avoidant pattern that is holding us back, the place to begin is to tell the truth to ourselves. Then we can look at how much this pattern is costing us.
Once we see clearly the toll that being conflict-phobic is taking on our well-being, the opportunity is there to take on the challenge of growing past our reluctance to speak up on our own behalf.
Here is a list to determine whether you are on the avoidant end of the spectrum
- Do you consider angry feelings to be dangerous?
- Do you notice yourself withdraw in silence when speaking up is actually called for?
- In the face of differences, do you tend to be critical of yourself rather than the other person?
- Do you avoid declaring what you think and feel in an effort to keep those around you comfortable?
- Do you sacrifice your own sense of reality in an attempt to preserve harmony in your relationship?
- Are you spending so much time scanning for what your partner is feeling and thinking that you don’t check in on your own experience?
- Do you find yourself complaining, but nothing really changes?
- Have you accumulated a mountain of incompletions due to all the needed conversations you have ducked out on?
- Do you make your partner’s needs and desires more important than your own?
- Do you find yourself in the role of taking responsibility for your partner’s reactions?
- When things become challenging, is your default emotion to feel guilty, believing that you are not giving enough or in some way are failing your partner?
- Is the approval of your partner more important to you than being self-referential?
By telling ourselves the truth about whether we are conflict-avoidant, we are taking an important and essential first step toward recovery from being disempowered by this destructive pattern.
Only by moving past our reluctance to tell the truth about our upset and anger about the circumstances of our life can we take the necessary steps to make substantive changes. Rather than fearing or denying our anger, we can begin to see it as an alarm going off to alert us to danger, eventually welcoming the anger that prompts us to take action on our own behalf.
Being in touch with our anger – telling the truth about how these strong emotions are here to protect us from harm – is a step along the way to living a life of well-being.
Through one choice at a time we lean into the challenge, to move away from withdrawal, silence, placating, inauthenticity and blaming ourselves. We can move into a more effective role of sorting out who has responsibility for what part in the breakdown, rather than taking it all on ourselves.
By jumping into the fray, indeed we do risk discord and even the possibility of loosing the relationship. But it is a trick of the mind to believe that we aren’t risking the partnership during the time that we have been knocking ourselves out trying so hard to be nice and get along. All those accumulated incompletions from the incidents that were never properly addressed are way more apt to sabotage the relationship than addressing them would ever be.
Learning how to continue to move forward in the face of our fear and the encrusted habituated patterns of avoidance is the requirement for substantive change.
That healing and growing process always begins with the honest recognition of how we get in our own way of our development and how much our old patterns are costing us. When we begin to tell the truth to ourselves, the will to make the changes can grow larger and the relationship has a chance to flourish right along side our enhanced sense of self.
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