Pretty common circumstance, right? Many people, including us, can identify with this situation to a certain extent, at one time or another in their relationships. In every relationship, there’s what we call a “relationship dance” that take place.
A “relationship dance” is an on-going, repeating pattern of behavior that both people play out in the relationship. Sometimes a relationship dance can be beautiful, loving and wonderful and other times, it can be painful, exhausting and difficult to deal with—even though there might be great love between the two people.
Well, here’s our take on John’s and Marsha’s relationship dance–why it’s causing challenges in their relationship and how they can open their hearts to one another again… Very often, upsets, anger, judgment, lashing out, or making each other wrong is sometimes nothing more than a mask for the pain that’s underneath what someone is feeling.
What seems to be John’s unreasonable anger can be his way of “puffing” himself up because he’s feeling vulnerable and afraid–fearful that if he doesn’t react in this way, he won’t be heard, honored or get his needs met.
Please understand that we are not condoning or validating anyone’s out-of-control rage or anger toward another–nor what happens as a result of this rage or anger, especially if physical violence is the result.
What we are suggesting is that in most cases, people who are expressing anger are not the strong, powerful people they are pretending to be in the moment. This may come as a shock to some of you to know that when most people act in this way, their actions and reactions are coming from their pain and their inability to know how to deal with their pain.
Marsha, on the other hand, feels blind sided by John’s anger. She reacts from old patterns, either freezing and withdrawing from him or lashing out at him with her own anger. Because John’s anger may be so unreasonable and blown out of proportion, it may look like he’s the only one who has contributed to their upset but that’s usually not the case.
Marsha’s probably been doing her own things to contribute to the situation. Under the guise of helping John to become a better person, she might be pushing him in ways that he doesn’t want to be pushed.
Whatever way their “relationship dance” goes, both people close their hearts to each other, shutting down any love or connection that they once felt for one another.
For many couples, the situation becomes too much of a “hot potato” and is never talked about again and therefore, never resolved. Even if the two people do talk about the issue, there’s often a standoff, with both people holding on to being right.
So what can John and Marsha, as well as millions of other couples, do to resolve their situation and create a closer and more connected relationship?
Here are some tips to help…
1, If the person is full of rage and you fear for your safety, temporarily leave the situation. If alcohol or drugs are involved, make sure that before you try any of our suggestions, the other person is sober and/or drug-free. You may want to get the help from a professional drug/alcohol counselor or groups if you are with a person who is a chronic abuser or if you are one yourself.
2. Know that underneath most displays of anger is a feeling that there is a need that’s not being met or a want that’s being stifled. Very often when there’s a trigger that sets off the anger or upset, we bypass what’s truly at the heart of the situation and go to the reaction that’s familiar, instead of the fear or the cause.
Whether you are the “angry” partner or not, be open to searching underneath your behavior for any fears or unmet needs and wants.
What is the need or want and what do you need to do to move toward having it without using anger as a crutch? It might be that you need to be more honest more of the time. It might mean that you not run away when things get tough. It might be that you need to take more responsibility in your life.
Make an agreement to listen to one another, speak from your hearts, and open to understanding each other, even though you may not agree.
3. We all create stories in our minds about what certain things mean that very often have nothing to do with the reality of the situation. It’s the stories we make up that usually drive our behavior so finding out the facts of the situation is really important.
Examine the stories that you are creating in your mind that triggers any behavior that sooner or later you regret doing. Know that you can change the stories that you tell yourself about every situation and begin taking steps to change them by looking at the facts.
4. Commit to not holding grudges from the past. If you need to do some forgiveness work around some issues, do it. If you need to make amends for something you did in the past, do it. Clear up anything hanging over from the past so that you can start together with a clean slate.
Anger is an emotion and emotions are our friends. Our emotions tell us what we need to take a look at next in our lives if we are open to doing the work.
Let the message of anger be “I need help” and then take the responsibility for looking at the issues underneath that you really need to address.