A frequent cause of arguments is – “I’m right; you’re wrong”
Does that sound like a description of your frequent interactions with your spouse/intimate partner/significant other?
If so, that’s VERY common.
It’s more important to be kind than right. What people need more than a partner with a clever mind who speaks, is a partner with a special heart who listens.
Francesca and Stan Levine’s long-established Melbourne, Australia Psychology/Counselling practice of over 35 years and their 54 year marriage have equipped them with deep, personal insights and understanding of conflict resolution and the joy of loving connection, together with a recognition that perhaps the real purpose of intimate adult relationships is to grow (up).
We all have our Views/Opinions/Ideas/Beliefs (for brevity let’s call them VOIBs) that we KNOW are correct; we will fight to protect those treasures from all attacks since we often view a difference of opinion as a threat of attack. Anxiety and/or fear come into play, activating our primitive survival brain of fight/flight/freeze/submit. This results in disconnection.
So much of what we believe and how we behave emanates from childhood, and our approach to contrary VOIBs is rooted there. The adult need to be right in a relationship is to some extent due to lack of validation in childhood.
Perhaps in your childhood when you voiced something, you were ridiculed, laughed at or even shamed by your parents and/or teachers.
As a result, as an adult you might well not express yourself to your partner for fear of consequences similar to those you endured in childhood, with the accompanying feelings of low self-esteem, unworthiness and lack of confidence.
“It takes 2 to play, and 1 to stop” – F. Scott Peck
This scenario can change, and Francesca and Stan teach their clients how to do that. Humans live in a connected universe, and when couples get into “I’m right, you’re wrong”, the connection is broken.
Rather than communicating out of one’s ego, which often won’t work, communication could be from one’s spirit which maintains connection, through curiosity rather than criticism.
Basically, you learn to differentiate; each person’s VOIBs are valid: they must feel right for YOU even if they are not right for anyone else. They are not wrong because someone disagrees with you.
With a process called The Couples Dialogue (created by Dr. Harville Hendrix and his wife, Helen La Kelly Hunt), each of you can learn to express yourself without fear of blame, criticism or judgement; without being cut off or told you should or shouldn’t do something or that you are wrong. YOU ACTUALLY GET HEARD AND ACCEPTED – now that’s a novel idea!
It means that the information you learn from your partner can be used to inspire you and to connect and grow.
You come back together with new eyes and ears; having grown, everything looks and sounds different in a better, more connected way.
You can be spirited into an out-of-this-world connection that is beyond words in its awesomeness.
But it doesn’t mean you get agreement or that either of you has to change your mind; however, when you truly listen to someone you can learn a lot, and then you may CHOOSE to change one or other of your VOIBs or accept the differences.
Werner Erhard said: “If two people agree all the time, then one of them is redundant”. Peace at any price leads to compliance, which breeds resentment and that is a passion killer.
A mature relationship connection is often as good as the manner in which differences are handled. This is based upon the extent to which you differentiate from your partner and, ultimately, from your parents or other influences in your upbringing.
None of this means you can’t disagree you are two different people with different histories, influences and life experiences and you won’t always agree. That doesn’t matter; it’s HOW you disagree that counts.
Avoid negativity – things like swearing, name calling, criticism, sarcasm and other put-downs; express yourself and your VOIBs with respect and consideration. Mature relationships grow through healthy resolution of differences, and that leads to deeper connection.
Using the tools that Francesca and Stan provide, you grow up emotionally and start to realise your potential in many areas of your life. That expands exponentially into your other relationships with family, friends and work colleagues, making for a much more fulfilling whole life.
Published in StarTribune