Whenever we feel pain or sadness the most common reaction is to distance ourselves from whatever is causing that experience. If you put your hand on a hot stove, you very quickly remove your hand to stop the pain. Similarly, whenever our partners or our spouses do something that hurts or upsets us, our natural tendency is to distance ourselves from the source – our partner. In that moment, our desire for personal safety tends to override our desire for connection. It happens in so many ways too – we withdraw either physically or emotionally, we get angry or defensive, we shut down, we disengage. It’s completely natural, and everyone has their own way of expressing their need to protect themselves..
And in that moment, every couple feels the same thing – a disconnect with the other person. It’s uncomfortable, and the standard response is to begin to pull away from the discomfort – to create distance between us and them. What most couples don’t realize though is that when they feel that disconnect, they stand on the cusp of a unique opportunity to take their relationship to a deeper and more fulfilling level. An opportunity to create true intimacy.
Imagine how awesome it would be if you could use every conflict to enhance your relationship.
Whenever couples fight or argue, it’s usually because one or both of them have a need that’s not being met or a core value that’s not being honored. People disconnect when they feel that what’s most important to them is somehow in jeopardy. If you’re willing to fully engage instead of pulling away or creating distance, you can get a glimpse of the inner workings of your partner. You’ll see what’s really most important to them, and you will come to see and understand them in a totally new way.
When your partner is upset, it doesn’t matter what emotion they’re feeling, because to them what they’re feeling is all that matters. It doesn’t matter if they’re rational or not, if it makes sense to you or not. They’re sharing with you what’s most important to them in that moment. Your job is simply to listen and respond with kindness.
The next time you have a disagreement with your spouse stop and ask yourself: What values are they expressing? What need isn’t being met? What are they afraid they won’t get if things don’t go their way? Use those moments to learn more about each other.
It doesn’t matter if your disconnect is over something big or small. The reality is that when we learn how to listen to our partner’s unmet needs, when we learn to see and genuinely honor their values, and hear what isn’t being said about how they feel, then we can truly begin to move beyond whatever was driving us apart and instead come together in love and caring and respect.