Even the best communication skills may not get down to the root of what creates pain and friction in your relationship. Most likely you have already learned many of the basic building blocks of conscious communication:
• Speak in “I” instead of “You” statements
• Set aside time for important conversations when you both are available
• Take turns saying what you feel
• Be a good listener and make sure to repeat what you’ve just heard so your partner feels like you got it
These are essential communication skills, but they don’t necessarily get to the core of what’s causing the discord in the first place.
Most couples stay trapped in the “conflict” zone, because they don’t know how to get to the heart of what’s really happening. They are so busy trying to feel heard or be right, that they miss the opportunity the conflict is presenting to create MORE intimacy and connection.
When you can’t see the real reason you’re fighting, you’ll never get a satisfying resolution. You’ll keep spinning your wheels, because resolution is forever out of reach.
Certain key underlying emotions aren’t being addressed, and as long as the two of you are misdirecting your energy away from the root cause of your upset, communication will be ineffective and frustrating.
In most conflicts there is usually a subconscious dynamic happening beneath the surface – and your partner is merely a trigger for your reaction. For example, let’s say you’re upset because you feel like you always end up doing what your partner wants to do instead of what you most want. You can use every communication technique in the world to express this, but unless you dig deeper and understand the many layers for WHY you’re upset, you’ll keep repeating the same pattern in your relationship.
In this example, it could be that, deep down, you’re also upset that you have a history of people-pleasing and not speaking up for yourself. Or perhaps you felt that as a child, your parents didn’t listen to what you wanted and did what your brother wanted instead.
All you feel now is the upset-but your partner is merely a trigger. Since you don’t know that your partner is just a trigger for unresolved feelings within yourself, and since the pain you feel is occurring in the presence of your partner, you then conclude he or she is to blame.
Meanwhile, your partner was just thinking that you were happy with his choices and inspiration! But, unexpressed emotions ALWAYS get expressed in one way or another. Any resentment that may build up inside of you will inevitably create distance and tension in your relationship. Or you might end up unleashing it in a torrent of blame, and you’ll be back in the conflict zone without addressing the key underlying emotion.
When partners in a relationship work together in a mode of discovery, magic happens. Argument sessions turn into scavenger hunts, where each partner is helping the other figure out – and clear up – what they’re really reacting to.
Until that happens, destructive fighting cycles can start to erode even the most loving connections.
Imagine what would happen if you paused to ask yourself whether your pain might be similar to something you experienced in your past. Imagine if, rather than automatically casting blame, you wondered how you might be contributing to the problem.
What is the underlying need within you that may not have been met when you were young that is still playing out? What is the most supportive thing that you can do for yourself in that moment, or receive from your partner, that would be transformational and healing? Relationships become empowered when both partners take full responsibility to unearth new answers and arrive at new possibilities for connection, understanding, and intimacy.
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