You're Lazy; You Never Do Anything Working through disagreements BY: Troy Murphy |March 2018
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Relationship patterns kill us-or save us. What are your patterns? Habitual interactions create the patterns on the fabric of our relationships. We develop these healthy and unhealthy patterns, choreographing the swings, dips and cross-overs of intimacy. Habits subtly invade every encounter. We don’t recognize them—they appear so normal. We act and react without thought; complex factors combine initiating learning, changing brain connections, to draw the blueprints of behavior. In relationships, these complex motivators of behavior multiply by two, as individuals combine their learning and reactions to those of their lover.
Recognizing the triggers that sets harmful patterns into action warns before the overwhelming emotions drive down the unforgiving roads and familiar dead-ends. With fore-warning, we can avoid the whole damaging chain of events. Strong emotions deter calm mindfulness, pulling thoughts away from introspection and into fury. If we wait until the emotions arrive, the feelings overwhelm and sweep us back into the damaging cycles, requiring renewed promises and repairing the hurt delivered. Repair and promises don’t wipe clear memories. The past remains, haunting the future. New disagreement takes on the energy from the past unsettled arguments, enraging the soul before different opinions can be explored. These stored emotions charge each discussion with unsolvable force. The growing resentment—if ignored—taints all disagreements. Until we unearth the hidden emotions, mundane disappointments will ignite fierce and painful conflict. The relationship is doomed.
Either partner can struggle with emotions, lacking tools to suppress overwhelm, they explode, run or shutdown. Studies indicate that men are more likely to get emotionally overwhelmed than women. But whether it is the man or the woman doesn’t matter; once emotionally over-loaded, the course of discussions quickly change; what started as simple disagreements turns to bitter character assassinations, name calling, and emotional shut-down. These downward conversational spirals (more typical in men but shared by many women) signal the breakdown of the relationship. When we leave these hurtful patterns unattended, they cause irreparable damage to relationship and the psyche of everyone involved.
"Once emotionally over-loaded, the course of discussions quickly change; what started as simple disagreements turns to bitter character assassinations, name calling, and emotional shut-down."
We must be sensitive to approaching emotions, battening down the hatches, and securing vulnerable and delicate valuables. When emotions run hot, conversations become destructive. Lost in emotion, ego protection trumps problem resolution, we lose footing and slip into destructive patterns; little is solved in emotionally charged confrontations, further discussions are futile. Pause, step away—the problems can wait; continuing in emotionally charged states leads to foolish, hurtful words that carry forward into future negotiations. Even when the moment has passed, and the relationship appears to have recovered, the hurtful words still scar the soul, waiting for the next confrontation to leap to action and remind of the threatening nature of conflict.
Labels: An over-simplified reason given to explain behavior. We assign an all encompassing character trait to small slips in behavior. The label later biases fair judgments of future action.
Partners don’t have to agree. Some disagreements stem from fundamental differences that will never be resolved. The autonomous differences can remain without diminishing intimacy. But these differences will resurface, requiring skilled negotiations. If we ignore fundamental differences, believing a single discussion will resolve them, the constant return frustrates. Pretending we converted our partner with our shrewd and crafty genius, we miss the point of individualism. When the unresolved issues continue to intrude, we express anger—our partner’s failure to change challenges our wisdom. The unresolved and unaccepted differences interrupt connection. The issues aren’t the problem; ignored unresolved issues are the trouble. A better way, instead of fighting for rightness, is showing our partner that we respect the differences, struggle to see their point of view, and then deferring right and wrong judgment. Being heard and respected enable partners to transcend differences. Dividing issues spark insecurity; but with respect, we promise security even while disagreeing. When we make a partner’s dignity paramount, concerned about their emotions, we can disagree without conversations deteriorating because self-worth is not at stake.
When simple issues morph into overgeneralized statements and character assassination, the words cut, hurting feelings and resolving nothing. The harsh encounter imprints painful memories that are stored for future discussions. A simple discussion over unwashed dishes doesn’t degenerate into stabbing comments of character, “You’re lazy; you never do anything around the house.” There may be work equity issues to be addressed. This is a normal complication in relationships. But adulterated interpretations do not balance the unfairness. The accused partner scurries away feeling like an innocent victim, or vehemently returns with an attack of their own. This path doesn’t resolve the issue originally identified while magnifying the discord and diminishing connection.
Break the destructive chain. Intervene when those hot triggers are pulled, create new helpful patterns. If surprised and emotions intrude, wait until flames cool, reaffirm love, share your feelings and then re-engage in the never-ending work of problem solving; and by damn, do those unwashed dishes, please!