Welcome back to the show! So today we’re talking about how to end the conflict! Are you and your partner in a standoff about something? Or maybe your lover has expressed an opinion that makes your blood boil. Most commonly, couples have these ongoing fights that seem to resurface from time to time with barely any movement forward.
Well, today we are going to talk about the one emotion you need to tap into to finally start putting out the fire. And then I’m going to tell you how to access that emotion.
So, are you ready for it? The emotion is CURIOSITY.
Curiosity can single-handedly diffuse tension. It is the opposite of being defensive. It is the opposite of being judgmental. When you genuinely feel curious about WHY your partner feels and acts the way they do, you have an internal shift that immediately softens you and moves you toward connecting with them.
Now if you’re someone who is thinking to yourself, “well why should I get curious when he doesn’t, “this podcast isn’t for you. I am all about taking the first step toward resolution and understanding. Because why not? Why not you? If I have the insight and the opportunity to start shifting my partner and I toward understanding, you bet your ass I’m going to take it.
You see, “bad behavior” comes from pain. Your partner isn’t just being a jerk. They are acting on thoughts and feelings they are having. And those thoughts and feelings are there for a reason. It may not be a reason you can relate to, but to them it is their experience and therefore very real and it is valid.
When we are growing up, the experiences we undergo while our brains are forming are highly consequential. Our neural pathways are developing as we take in the world. Our parents, siblings, and school play a vital role in how we view the world as an adult. Let’s look at three examples.
- A boy being raised by parents who are constantly expecting more of him than he can deliver, has a good chance of growing up to think he is not good enough and will spend most of his waking hours trying to prove himself to everyone. He may value accomplishment over vulnerability.
- A girl who grows up in a home with alcoholism or addiction will not feel secure and may have a hard time trusting others as an adult. After all, the people who were supposed to give her stability were the very ones creating chaos and emotional confusion. So, she never really learned how to trust someone because the first few times she tried, she quickly learned it was unsafe.
- A child who has parents in a heated divorce may grow up to avoid conflict altogether because the anxiety from witnessing so much fighting without any healthy resolution. The part of conflict where we talk about it and make up was never modeled for this child, so how are they to know that can be the result?
Do you see why it’s so important to get curious? Understanding where your partner is coming from removes the ten-foot barrier and brings you closer together. This is your life partner! Think of the wording of that term. This is your PARTNER in life. This means that you are on the same team.
Have you ever heard that age old question, “do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” Before I started my journey of inner work, that question confused the heck out of me. I would think to myself, isn’t it the same thing? It makes me happy to be right!
But there was no humility in that. I thought I knew how my partner should think, feel, and act. I cared more about him saying, “you’re right” then I did about getting to know him. If this is where you’re at there is much work to be done.
You see, your partner has some kind of belief learned earlier in life that causes them to see the world through lenses that you may not have access to. So, ask questions! Get genuinely curious about why they feel the way they do. You do not need to agree with them, you just have to respect them.
So, how do we drop into curiosity? Well, it requires a shift. It’s not always easy but it is not as hard as you think. In my free guide, 4 Steps to Empower Yourself, Cultivate Better Communication and Deeper Intimacy with Your Life Partner, I take you through a powerful exercise that helps you get there faster. You can find that guide at https://partnershipaligned.com/guide
For now, let’s start with where you’re at. What are your thoughts about your partner within this fight or tension you are experiencing? Close your eyes while you think about it. Can you feel the tightness in your body as all your defenses go up? Can you feel the judgment? Can you see how these thoughts are not serving your relationship? Take some very deep breaths to relieve some of that tension in your body.
Then, think intentional thoughts that will cause you to feel curious. Your thoughts create your emotions, not the other way around. So, in order to feel genuinely curious, you need to think curious thoughts. It needs to be a thought you actually believe. This is something I am trained to help clients figure out.
For example, “I know my partner is having their experience just as powerfully as I am. I wonder where theirs stems from.” Or “we come from such different backgrounds, I am interested in how their past has contributed to their current lens.” It doesn’t have to be these thoughts, but you see the point.
Now, it’s important to understand that if your body is on fire and you’re not ready to get curious, that’s ok! I am a big believer in taking some space and allowing for your emotions. But there is a difference between “I’m not ready to” and “I don’t care to.” You need to be honest with yourself about how much your ego is playing a part here.
The last thing I’ll leave you with is that all relationship work translates from work with the self. So first, get curious with yourself. What is the lens that you see the world through? When you’re acting out, can you see how it comes from pain? How has this pain shaped your view of your partner? These questions are the beginning of healing. Clarity is the first step towards resolution with yourself, the world, and your partner.