Although there are no “quick fixes” when it comes to transforming a relationship to a better state of being, there are certain things that can be done by one of both partners, which will open the door to a different, more authentic and satisfying way of relating.
Most people would agree that “poor communication” is one of the key deteriorating factors in any given adult relationship. However, the most ineffective way of improving a relationship is to assume that more “leveled” conversation will dissolve the power struggle, whether the lack of communication comes from silence or loud fighting.
“Poor communication” is NOT the absence of words or, on the other side of the spectrum, loud fighting; rather, poor communication happens when neither partner can recognize his/her own vulnerable spots.
To rid your relationship from power struggles/cycles of distress, (you know, the conversations that never take place or the ones that end up in a totally different way you envisioned) I help you tease out which part of you is hijacking all the good stuff you hope for.
“Read” your body signals:
As soon as one of those power struggles/cycles of distress begin to show up,
- Take a moment to scan your body.
- How to scan it: Take a deep breath (or 3) and “read” what your body is saying to you. (Inhale deeply through the nose and exhale loudly through the mouth) Does your chest get tight or your stomach in knots? Do your legs get paralyzed or more mobile? Does your heart pump faster, slower? Are you sweating? Are your arms moving or do they cross or hide? Does your body move forward, backward or stays put? Does your tone/pitch change, how? Etc.
- Write it down.
“Talk” to your emotions
We all have internal conversations when our emotions are heightened; however, we usually converse with our adrenaline, the hormone that fuels our frustration/anger/fear, and bypass the emotions that lead to the adrenaline rush. It’s a survival thing, but not a very effective one when we are not at war; our brains think we are and it gets us in trouble, actually, it gridlocks us. It takes about 20 minutes for the body to stabilize from an adrenaline high: deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth loudly and slowly, will help the body stabilize.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What am I feeling right now? (Remember: a feeling is one word, for example: sad, joyful, disappointed, afraid, etc.)
- What exactly upset me? These responses usually get sidetracked by placing blame on the other; stay away from that right now, focus only on how it “landed” on you: for example: I am scared I am not good enough for her, or, I feel small at this moment, or, I feel attacked and powerless, or, I can never win, etc.
- Write it down.
Write a letter to yourself
Writing a letter can have a profound effect on the psyche and more importantly it could be the beginning to creating your own authentic mirror. A mirror is something that reflects back something that otherwise can’t be seen.
It is very difficult to know what we don’t know, right? However, we do know that there are internal forces, emotional forces that can be so powerful as to blindside us from feeling all of our vulnerabilities. There is a reason for this: survival. Our brain is designed to alert us from harm or perceived harm in critical moments. During these critical moments we secrete all sorts of hormones, which mimic the ones we would secrete to get out of a really dangerous situation (our primal brain CAN’T tell the difference between an armed robber pointing a gun at us or a gesture of contempt from our partner; both will be read by the primal brain as dealing with a life or death situation).
Writing letters was my first personal experience to emotional freedom; first I would write them to myself and later, once I learned to put down all my weapons (criticism, contempt, defensiveness and /or stonewalling) I would write them to my husband. Many times, I would toss them away. The act of writing them is what matters most.
A letter can help you reveal parts of yourself hidden from your consciousness. It requires honesty on your part, awareness of emotions and body responses and authenticity. It is excruciating at first, to come face to face with our vulnerabilities (it was for me!); it meant I had to let go of my perceived control and embrace my fears, my longings, my dreams and hopes, plainly, my humanity. I have dubbed these letters: Letters of Transparency.
How to start mastering the art of writing Letters Of Transparency.
- Ground yourself: take 3 deep breaths (inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth). Write specifics first, your age, your name, where you are at the time you are writing, what you are wearing, what time of day it is and what the weather is like. (These are ways to shift from a heightened emotional state to a more balanced one).
- Sprawling from an exercise designed by master therapist Hedy Schleifer, if you follow this pyramid format in writing, it will help you start to clearly see what your primal brain is reacting to first, yet actually REALLY longing. When this process begins to unfold for you, the conversations between you and your partner take a different turn, from: “YOU ARE A JERK!” To “I GET REALLY SCARED …” These shifts in approaching each other and any situation dictate the quality of your relationship and significantly increase the level of intimacy.
* Our desires may sound irrational but they are our deepest longings, usually frozen needs from the past that LIVE in us so they MUST be revealed.
I am sharing with you below, one of my beginning Letters Of Transparency. Following the above pyramid format, it read like this:
You were late to our weekly date because a game went to overtime on TV! Then I started feeling angry, resentful and dismissed. I found myself imagining all sorts of horrible scenarios, sulking and busying myself with house chores. When this happens I tell myself that you don’t care about me or about what I need. What I am REALLY afraid of is being forgotten, replaced and abandoned. What I want is to feel is important and relevant. My hidden and ideal desire is to ALWAYS matter first. What would help in those moments is that you address me and offer a plan B rather than choose other things over me without checking with me.
When you or both start writing Letters Of Transparency, you will start to see the reflection of your longings, the root of your pain and anger or despair. What this does, is give you a chance at addressing the frustrations from a place of understanding vs. blaming each other which would take you right back to the power struggle and inevitably to gridlock.
Once you start unfolding your longings to yourself you are in a much better place to address issues with your partner. If you both do it, the process is much faster, productive and enlightening!
Congratulations on taking a step back from power struggle and a big step towards intimacy.