Things a little tense at home?
When relationships are under conditions of isolation, uncertainty and anxiety, it might feel like you’re drifting on the ocean without a rudder.
Even under the best conditions relationships are hard work—and then stuff happens.
I was telling Stephen a story the other day when he just walked away. He looked bored. I felt he’d deliberately tuned me out. OUCH! I took it personally.
This came just after we’d remarked on how well we were getting on during our social isolation, and how grateful we were for it! I’d been trying to be especially mindful of our relationship that day.
But a feeling’s a feeling. He pushed my “I’m not important enough” button.
That’s MY button and it’s up to me to deal with it, but still—he was the one who pressed it. Should I ignore the hurt he did me? Absolutely not!
This has happened before. It’s part of our relationship 'dance'. The button is not new. It’s just under the surface, waiting to go off. It's up to me to recognize my button it before it’s set off, to swap my usual reactivity for something more thoughtful and productive
I took a breath and set my intention: to examine my reactivity and not take it personally.That’s like swimming upstream, which is why taking a breath now is so helpful.
When I have that balance it’s easier to see what’s really going on inside. Then I thought about what he was going through.
Then I asked myself some questions:
Q: Was he deliberately trying to hurt me?
A: Duh no! He is one of the most kind and gentle souls I know. Like everyone, he carries emotional baggage, and he reacts to me pushing his vulnerable buttons too.
Q: Did he really hear me?
A: His hearing is not 100% so maybe not. He can be distracted, or overwhelmed by my brain’s rapid-fire flow of ideas. That’s my bad. I get very enthusiastic about brainstorming out loud.
Q: If I just let it go,would he learn that it’s okay to be like that in the future?
A: Based on the fact that we are 99% of the time respectful and polite, probably not.
Q: What would a wise elder say?
A: Look inward, especially to my “I’m not important enough” button. That’s the actual source of the hurt. I take a good look at my need to defend myself, and look at how things turn out. That shows you the price of being right, as opposed to letting go of the hurt and addressing it with humour and love.
I chose humour because it’s freeing, and it works. I told Stephen how I felt honestly and directly—but in a playful way. He responded beautifully.
I want to do it every time, but sometimes I don’t. I’m human. But as I always tell my clients, the more you practice the easier it gets.
Rather than beat myself up or stew in discomfort, I do something that feels good like write, exercise or play with my cats and try again.
What do you do?