Keeping relationships running smoothly is a challenge. It would be nice if the people you love would accommodate and cooperate with every request. That may happen in the beginning of a relationship, but once comfortable existence sets in, so does every bad habit.
It helps to ask, “Am I centered in the kind of person I want to be? Am I connected to the higher intention of my actions? If I get angry or upset with something, will what I say lead to responses I want to have?”
It is also helpful to consider the characteristics of yourself that you want to embrace. Do you want to be arrogant, or do you want to be loving? Do you want to be critical, or do you want to be compassionate? Keep in mind that love means caring about the happiness of another person without expecting anything in return. It also does not mean caring about the happiness of another person instead of your own happiness. There is mutuality with love–an nice flow of give and receive.
It is this mutuality that creates opportunity to grow. What character strength do you want to develop? You will choose the perfect partner to help you in those areas that need attention. So, when you are so angry with your spouse that you just want to scream, that is the moment to take a careful look at yourself. No matter what your spouse is doing or saying to create this intense emotion, the intense emotion is not about your partner. It is about your personal history. It is a moment to decide to let emotions dictate words, or to let strength of character dictate words.
One of the hardest things to do in loving relationships, is to let go of being “right.” Love is not about being right. Love is about growing and stretching into the person you were intended to be. So, take a deep breath when you feel the blow up about to happen. Nurture yourself a moment or ten, and then create the conversation you want to have, rather than the conversation your strong emotions will encourage.
I am not saying you have to be perfect. I am saying admit your imperfection without saying, “but.” Whatever you say after “but,” will typically be something unflattering about the person with whom you’re speaking. Where will that get you? If the conversation doesn’t go well, it is okay to try again. Hit the rewind button and start over.
Here are some examples of ways to create meaningful dialogue.
1. Lower your voice and make eye contact.
2. Mirror and validate the comments you hear.
3. Limit the time you talk, so others can speak.
4. Share your thoughts and feelings without judgement or criticism.
5. Ask the other person about his/her thoughts and feelings.
6. Use calming words and avoid conflict enhancing words.
7. Listen deeply and try to understand what the other person is saying.
8. Take a time out if things escalate. State how long that time will be.
9. Brainstorm solutions.
10. Stay in your adult or nurturing state, not the vengeful child state.
In order to do these 10 steps, you will want to access your best self, your calm and collaborative state of being. If you are too upset, then take time to nurture and validate yourself, and have empathy for yourself. You can do this in writing by letting your angry child part speak as your nurturing self validates. Once you feel calm and safe, then continue the conversation.
Let this be the time to shed old patterns and create new more productive patterns of loving each other. Practice saying, “You know, I realize that when I complained about your ______, I did not take into account how you must have felt about ________. I am sorry I did not take your feelings into account. I could have responded much better.”