Evolving with Connections
BY T. Franklin Murphy | July 2018 (edited December 15, 2021)
When differences arise, it is easy to move straight to protection, building walls to save our tender egos. This stymies intimacy, preventing trust, and destroys closeness. We need open exploration.
We are all different. In creating intimacy, we discover partners are individuals. Wants, needs and beliefs clash and we react. Emotions spike, jolting the body into action. But sometimes the feelings are too much, interfering with productive discussion. The emotional overload changes the course of the communication; what started as sharing feelings quickly turns destructive. These are critical moments. Relationships strengthen or weaken from the subsequent actions employed.
We must identify these nasty patterns before we can change them. Unaddressed destructive responses, when allowed to continue, sour the relationship; resentments accumulate into nasty piles of unresolved issues. When simple discussions routinely drift from the triggering issue to character assassinations, name calling, and emotional shut down, the relationship is doomed. The ruinous path damages self-esteem and inner peace. The turbulent connection destroys security, leaving us wanting, hurt and alone.
A young couple going through the tedious checks of airport security, misplaced their keys—a normal occurrence. The simple mishap led to a stream of bickering, arguing and name calling as they accused each other of the transgression. The Transportation Security Agent rechecked the bags through the x-ray machine locating the lost keys; but instead of relieved, they continued to fight, each convinced the other stupidly placed the keys in the bag. The problem was solved; but neither could step away. The battle over supremacy loomed, fault had to be affixed, and domination established—and the joys of a vacation suspended.
The couple failed to bond during a critical moment, allowing a simple deviation from expectation to expose buried hurts of disconnection.
We attend to overload—whether experienced ourselves or by our partners. When we recognize overwhelmed emotions slamming into the conversation, reaching a saturation point and leaking into the discussions in harmful ways; we must know that attempts for resolution are futile. We pass the last junction and barrel down the alley towards the same barren end of disconnection. Is this what you want? A fear-based reactionary relationship?
Most want their relationships to provide love and connection, not merely survive through protections. Change requires a more mindful approach, evolving through an expanding knowledge of self and the partner. This can’t happen when overwhelmed with fear and reacting with anger or seething withdrawal.
"We must identify these nasty patterns before they can be broken. Unaddressed destructive responses, when allowed to continue, sour the relationship; resentments accumulate into nasty piles of unresolved issues."
Learning from Our Fears
We must engage the moment with openness and curiosity, digging into the underlying fears. Searching for wisdom behind the emotions. Asking:
Only when we understand more of the hidden elements behind the conflict can we work towards a resolution. Pause, regain composure when necessary, the problem can wait, or might even dissipate on its own. If the issue needs resolving, return to the issue when you and your partner have settled. When the issue changes from "I felt bad you didn't help with the dishes tonight" to "you NEVER help with anything," and then personal attacks, "You are lazy!"
The discussion has morphed, no longer capable of a healthy resolution. The jabbing insults hurt, demand protection, and we (or them) seek retribution—you hurt me, so I will hurt you. We must recognize the lack of direction, and the impending doom in this fight for power.
When we can stop the same old script from replaying its dreadful tunes, we can practice healthier approaches, introducing a fresh approach that invites safety and learning. Stop the chaos, invite order and accept our partners for the person they are and are becoming. In the peace, revise your plan, seek understanding. Only here do relationships evolve with love and connection.
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