Pssst. I have a secret. This little nugget of insight just might force a whole paradigm shift in how you view your relationship. It just might change everything - for the better.
The arguments you have with your partner aren't really about what you think they are.
It's not about the dishes or who is "always" late, it's actually about the feelings these experiences evoke in each other on a far deeper level. The myriad of things that couples argue about are often aren’t actually what fundamentally drive couples in distress.
According to Sue Johnson, PhD, it’s “a primary fear of rejection and abandonment.” That's right, you're fighting to avoid losing something; your partner, yourself, your relationship. Rarely is it ever about the event that inspired the emotion. What's really going on is something much deeper and more powerful.
In addition, questions around one's worth can come up. This occurs particularly for those who had less secure childhoods and attachments with parents or a history of receiving negative messages about their value. Typically, the more secure one feels about themselves, others and the world the less likely they are to be triggered on this primal level.
It will serve you and your partner well to tune into what each of you are bringing into your relationship. Do you come from a place of trust in things being all right or one of uncertainty? This will drive much of the dynamics between you both.
So how can you fix this? Change your focus...
If you are having a disagreement with your partner, try to shift your focus from the "incident" to the underlying emotions that the incident evoked. Here we're talking about the feelings that often get covered up by the surface complaints. For example, what story does your partner believe about what your behavior means about him/her – or the relationship?
To use an example, what does it say to your partner when you're "always late"?
- Do they interpret your behavior to mean that you don't care about them?
- That you don't value or respect their time/schedule?
- Maybe they even feel like your "lateness" is you telling them that you believe that you're more important than they are.
If you can start to see your partner through this new lens; past the behavior and into the sea of what the behavior invokes in you, you'll be far better equipped to stop wasting time going round on round on the details.