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Fight Right: Turning Conflict into Connection

"Nothing builds intimacy like vulnerability" - Janet Hardy .... and nothing is quite as vulnerable as an intimate conflict.

We are in such close quarters right now. General frustration and tension is so high - it is only natural we are going to be more likely to snap during this time.

How do we do capitalize on this opportunity to connect?

First, there's a few things we need to understand

  • Give yourself grace

    • During crisis we can only function around 80% as well as usual, let this be 40%, 60%, etc for compounding issues: loss or financially insecurity

    • Further take 20% (40%, 60%, etc if compounding issues) off your plate.

  • You can’t fix something you just found out about OR something that has been going on for a long time in a short discussion - give heated discussions lots and lots of space

  • It is unfair to ask your partner to sit and listen to even subtle forms of blame, accusation, or judgment; to be the target of your frustration:

    • We are right to resist our boundaries being crossed 

    • Major backfire alert in terms of getting what you want and need

  • Intimate conversations can be a set up for disaster:

    • They bring up our deepest, most subconscious wounds creating fast, blind, big reactions

    • No one can fight fair in this adrenalized, triggered state

SO, make rules:

1.When and where is it safe to have heated discussions?

2. Use, and respect, safe words to slow down or stop when triggering is happening

  • no last words, just STOP

  • not about fault

  • set a time to check back in

* Pausing for pauses - how and why to do it*

It can hurt and be hard to do, especially at first

You need 15 minutes of unstimulated time to get out of the adrenalized state

  • may need to journal, exercise, dance or listen to music first

  • just let that ugly dark stuff we all have flow on out

Then set your timer for 15 of distracting relaxation: game, music, tv, internet, podcast, etc.

Don’t kid yourself with meditation, most people don’t have the mental capacity to do that during such a hard time.

  • Nurture time outs with quiet: do you need:separate rooms or spaces? headphones? to let the kids know about these rules?

3. Schedule a time to check back in, and another time to resume discussion

  • when you honor your agreement to check back in, you may need to say or hear that 15 more minutes is needed to fully come back to compassionate calm.

  • when you are ready to come back, do not resume discussion when you check back in

    • go on a walk, watch something pleasant, grab favorite food

    • schedule a time to resume your discussion another day

4. Practice

  • the more you practice the more your brain learns how to self soothe, and you will become less easily triggered and handle triggers better, in the future

  • fire drill before the fire: what’s an easier conversation to try using slow down and stop safe words, as well as sharing I feel statements?

  • When you are starting to notice you are getting upset about something your partner is doing, write out feelings and thoughts

    • promise yourself to sit with this writing for 2 days

    • If after 2 days it still feels like it needs to be said, go back thru:

5. Use I statements

  • "I feel... _EMOTION word  "

    • NOT " I feel ... _verb ending in -ed   "

    • NOT "I feel that...”

  • Listener: hear and validate the speaker. THAT’S IT.

    • It may feel hard, even painful, not to offer your partner advice, comfort, or to comment ...but for now, give each other the freedom to just listen without needing to provide any response other than:

      • "Yes" "I hear you" "mmhmm" "OK" "I understand"

  • Speaker: don’t go off track with ideas, strategies or suggestions

    • Just share what’s in your heart, your feelings.

  • Before saying what you feel, first reflect the feelings you heard

RESOURCE: Most of the material I have summarized today is from a small part of just one chapter in Janet W Hardy’s and Dossie Easton’s brilliant book, “The Ethical Slut” This book is jampacked with compassionate, practical, incredibly expert wisdom and tools. I can’t recommend it more highly. Try to get a physical copy to dog-ear and underline as soon as you can.

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