Is it really possible to stay connected during the times when disagreements come up?
Some people say “yes” and others think differently.
We received a question from someone recently that may be an issue in your relationship from time to time…
Here’s what this woman asked us…
“We want to stay connected during our difficult times too. What is the one thing we can do every time my husband and I are angry with each other to stay connected as we work through the disagreement?”
This is such a great question because what we’ve found is that lots of other people like you have similar dynamics in their relationships or marriages as well.
In this situation, it’s certainly a big plus that this couple feels connected in the first place and wants to stay connected.
It also sounds like they both want to keep their connection–which is another huge plus.
So we’ll talk a little about anger and then tell you what we think the one thing is that this couple, and any couple, can do to either stay connected or to reconnect as quickly as possible (even when disagreements come up.) Our take on anger is this…
We ALL have a “story” about how we think everything in our lives should be.
When something happens to make us think our “story” isn’t going to be fulfilled, we have a problem.
In relationships, when there is a conflict between two people about how things should be– if both of those people are attached to being right– anger is a very common response and reaction.
In other words, one way that anger comes up is when your story about how you think things should be is not in alignment with someone else’s story or maybe even the reality of what is.
When two people are involved and one or both feel anger, there are two conflicting stories or ideas of how it should be. When this happens, very often there’s a feeling of powerlessness and most likely there’s something within you that needs to be heard, valued, honored or understood.
When something happens with someone in our lives that’s incongruent with what we want, some of us “get angry” and some of us do other things to cope with the situation.
Our anger closes us to the other person and if the other person is angry or closes as well, there’s a stalemate, disconnection and feeling of hopelessness. So what’s the ONE thing we recommend to stay connected even when anger comes up?
When we break it down, what we recommend you do is actually a two-step process…
1. Shift your attention and look at what’s underneath your anger. What want, need or desire are you not getting? What story about this want, need or desire are you telling yourself that may or may not be true?
2. Get curious about the other person’s story. Find out more so that you understand. You still may not agree but there will be a softening between the two of you when you both change your perspective toward each other from demanding to be right to being curious about the other’s motivations.
We’ll give you an example…
The biggest issue the two of us struggle with is over finances. We often say that we are each other’s best teachers, especially when it comes to dealing with money. Since we are not only married but business partners as well, we have that lesson in our faces quite a bit–and we have learned a lot in the years we’ve been together.
One typical scenario is when Otto sees a training program that he knows we need to have in order to grow our business. Since Susie is our business “accountant” and bottom line person, she usually has a different perspective or “story” about buying yet another program.
This scenario stills comes up but we are so much better than we used to be at staying connected when it does. Instead of an instant negative reaction, Susie now tells herself that Otto’s suggestion is just that–a suggestion and we don’t necessarily need to act on it–but we might.
The “story” underneath her anger was that she was powerless in these situations–which made her come out even stronger against his suggestions.
Now, she’s usually able to listen and find out more about the program when she changes her “story” to just being curious and relaxing into the knowing that she has choice. As for Otto–you can guess that he became angry and felt powerless too when he was hit by Susie’s initial reaction to his suggestion. What a circular pattern that was (and is, at times)!
Now, because Susie’s initial reaction isn’t negative and she’s more open, he doesn’t feel defensive. He’s also finding that he’s more judicious in choosing the programs that he brings up for discussion to buy. While we don’t do it this way every time the pattern comes up, we are keeping our connection stronger and stronger–even when we have “conflicting” stories. Like anything else, it just takes practice.