Jordan Kozey says couples should master conflict in relationships instead of avoiding it.
Harmony and passion are the Holy Grails of relationship. Whenever we see a romantic movie or read a love story, we are given a wonderfully arrayed glimpse of how intoxicating and vibrant a life of good love can be. In a two-hour Hollywood love story, we may see an argument or two where the man or woman realizes some defect in their character, find a way to become humble and repentive, and the two go merrily on, forever into the sweaty sheets of steamy and playful compatibility.
It is rare in cinema to see the continuous chain of effects from the character-challenging, wound-springing, trigger marathons that are both seasonal and frequent in long-term, healthy relationships. For many children, it is more rare to see these choppy waters navigated with grace and finesse in their parents’ dynamics.
What, then, is the point of relationships? This is a question the two-hour tale cannot encompass.
The purpose of any relationship that intends to endure the dunes of time must be growth, deep growth. What I am referring to is more than just a quick realization that one is being an asshole or has wounds left unhealed. The cavernous growth I am referring to here is the strength and size of the heart.
Many of us believe that if we leap past one harsh hurdle, that we deserve a lifetime banquet of relief and repose. Life adamantly delivers the opposite in the form of emotional energy. The more one can hold, the more life gives opportunity to hold more.
Thus, the moment comes in relating when one partner is being vulnerable and the other is triggered by the first partner’s truth. Then the first becomes triggered by having their vulnerability slammed, which sets off a chain reaction to the core of each partner until both diverge into a flight response (perhaps inter-spliced with some fight).
Here are five ways to wake up and use these so-called negative emotions to the benefit of all.
Stop. Hold the Charge. Sit, and do not leave each other’s company. The feelings are more than intense, definitely, but do not move. One partner is afraid the other will leave and withdraws, and the other wants nothing more than to get up and out. Stay holding hands. Touch each other. What is it like to touch this person on the other side of the lightning bolt? Take deep breaths into this dense atmosphere. Make short but sweet glances into the eye of your mate. Do not go to sleep or part until the charge has waned (and using the rest of these steps).
If you can do this, you will be much less likely to make impulsive decisions in life, you will have more patience for other people, and you will act with more precision in the face of conflict.
Do Not Try to Fix or Please. Hold strong in yourself. There will be some awkward silence and an opportunity to reflect. Search yourself.
Find the place where your wound first emerged. Was it the way your mother or father spoke to you when you were a child? Did your ex try to guilt you into being someone you are not? Once it is clear, then proceed to explain to your partner where you are coming from, that you own your own reaction, and let them know they are not the source of your issue.
Your partner’s reaction is also coming from a similar place. Like you, they must also find a way to take responsibility for it, to communicate their hurt without blame, and to request something that might help them in the future. If you can get to this place, deep growth is entirely possible.
Out of this basal acceptance, one begins to appreciate more the world around them. Delays are seen as opportunity, and crisis becomes a clearer road to opportunity. A life investigated gives meaning to what it means to be a human on this planet and is the source of empathy.
Use “I” statements. If you’ve ever been told by a parent or a partner “it’s all about you!”, they are in fact mostly correct, even though they are blaming you for some perceived selfishness. Regardless, “I feel…” is one of the paramount phrases of a healthy relationship.
For example: “I feel sad when you just said that. I don’t blame you, I just noticed that sadness (or anger, or jealousy) came up for me there.”
“I know you are nothing like my mother, although I felt defensive there and it reminded me of when she used to speak to me. However, I see that it was not your intention to hurt me.”
It’s easy to complain about our world. Yet to the one who owns his chunk of space, and claims responsibility for it with the formidable “I,” will find power where others only pedal in weakness.
Honor Space or Togetherness. If, once the dust settles, one or both of you need space, then it is good to do so. This is not “flight,” it is a demonstration of personal or relational respect. Sometimes, after the earthquake has settled, out of the once roaring abyss trots Eros, and a fine host of sensual and intimate energy. Make love, or part ways for a time, but let your partner know you are there, firm through squall or tempest. This is the essence of true intimacy.
The ability let go or to gather contains the essence of harmony in life and in relationships. People who have this mastered are game changers.
Nurture the Heart. The heart is both a physical organ in the body and an energetic nexus in the center of the chest. We often do not feel the pain of heartache and disconnection in the physical heart just to the left of the sternum (although it is possible). Normally we feel it in the center of the chest. When we sit through the storm with a lover in the crucible of emotional intimacy, the energetic heart will feel torn, like a muscle after a healthy workout. It needs wholesome food, rest, meditation, fresh air, sunlight, hugs from friends, a hot tub, massage, and anything that emanates from the repository of self-care.
It has been said that the only way to help other people is to know how to truly care for and love oneself. The greatest givers in the world found ways to sustain themselves, either through their faith, exercise, or their ability to receive love.
This is a difficult process, at first, like any healthy regime. If you have further interest in how to wake up through relationships, or on non-violent communication, find my contact information below and I’d be happy to work with you around these crucial issues.
Originally appeared at The Good Men Project. Get the best of The Good Men Project delivered daily or weekly, or become a Premium Member!