Don't let an argument derail positive communication.
Have you noticed when you're in conflict with your partner that you tend to go around in circles, often having the same arguments over and over?
For example, with one of the couples who came to us for counselling went round after round about their sex life. He wanted more physical intimacy (claiming that and their intimate life had significantly diminished since the early years of their marriage). She complained that all he wanted is to get her into bed. She felt like an object, and that he no longer invested time in all the little, romantic things he used to do.
Together, they felt caught in a turbulent cycle of finger-pointing and frustration. Each of them feeling wronged and stuck. No matter how much they argued, the problem didn't go away ... just the opposite. By the time they came to us, little intimacy remained between them whatsoever.
Uncovering Your Unconscious Patterns
The example above is just one of the many ways couples get into long-standing fights. It could be about anything—money, chores, parenting, in-laws, or how people squeeze a tube of toothpaste.
If you keep experiencing the same argument with your partner, you're in a pattern that has nothing to do with them.
Instead, your partner and the situation are merely acting as triggers for an underlying, often longstanding issue. And the argument will repeat until you address that core issue.
Make sure to stop and take that in, because this insight has the power to completely transform your relationship—not just with your partner, but anyone else you communicate with.
It could be an issue with your mother. You're annoyed that she keeps telling you how to run your house. Or, your colleague. Maybe you think they're always trying to steal the limelight from you.
If you have ongoing arguments with your kids (and we bet you do), these are also gateways to underlying patterns you have the power to shift. And it only takes one word to do it.
The One Word Solution
The ONE word you can use to shift any long-standing argument is this: .... Hmmm.
It might seem inconsequential, and too simple a word to end long-standing issues. But taking a moment to pause in the heat of an argument and shifting into a state of wonder is the catalyst for toppling a pattern.
Here's how to do it:
- "Hmmm ... how could I have contributed to this conflict?"
While it may seem like there's always a "bad guy" in a fight, in a relationship you're usually looking at a dynamic.
In the case of the husband and wife we mentioned above, he had to admit that he did indeed stop making an effort to pay attention to his wife in the little ways he had done before, but she also realized that when he did try to please her, she would express disappointment rather than appreciation.
- "Hmmm ... has this happened before?"
Here you're looking to uncover any unconscious patterns that may have led to the current situation. You're trying to find anything that might feel familiar in your past.
With our distant couple, the husband sadly remembered that he often felt unloved as a child, so he unwittingly put a stopper on the amount of love he could now receive from his wife. As for her part, she harbored a fear of intimacy that actually erected a wall to keep her husband at a safe distance.
- "Hmmm ... what can I do to create a solution here?"
Often, fighting becomes a hard habit to break. We spin our wheels without actually reaching for a solution.
So, the "hmmm" here is to shift from blaming to creating—taking the energy wrapped up in ceaseless finger-pointing—and using it to come up with possible ways to solve the problem.
Try "hmmm" the next time you're upset with your partner. Snapping out of long-standing patterns requires practice and dedication, but we've seen it happen time and again—in both our own relationship, and those of the many couples we've counseled.
Katie and Gay's free relationship e-newsletter, Hearts In Harmony, explores the challenges and glories of lasting love. Based on the tools they've developed throughout their 30+ year marriage and taught to thousands, you'll learn powerful insights and practical techniques you can start using today—whether you're in a relationship or eager to attract one. www.heartsintrueharmony.com.