You will forgive me for, once again, talking about relationships on this blog. Maybe it’s because the Mermaid’s Dilemma is on and relationships are at the front of my mind. Probably it’s that. :o) But it’s also because I always ask on the Sunday before I write these, “What do I need to write about tomorrow?” And the blogs are always the answer to that question.
Having said that, I know that today’s topic is valuable. It’s one of the key tools I have used in healing myself and some of the rocky bumps in my marriage. Which is probably a good place to start this…
Through our whole partnership- married and unmarried- I have taken care of the money side of things. We decided on a shared checking account a long time ago- because he was kinda not great with balancing checkbooks and I was decent enough. Plus, I like math. [It feels like magic, sometimes.]
Year in and year out, we did fine. There were expensive mistakes sometimes, but overall, we did well. And we would switch up things sometimes- who handled which pieces of retirement, who planned for vacation budgets, etc.
Along the way we had grown, as well. We had overcome some difficult fights, had kids, walked to the edge of the ‘Cliff of Divorce’ at least once. We had tools and healing.
But we always had the same damn fights about money. Always.
We took a money course to look at our issues and- magic! – we found something really important. He could not hear what I was saying about money and my needs and goals because I sounded just like his mother sounded when she talked to his father – and he never liked how that went down at his house. I could not hear what he was saying about his money needs and goals because he sounded just like my father did when my parents would fight about money.
Neither of us could hear what the other person was saying because we got triggered by how they said it -and sometimes even by tone of voice or how one/both of us were using our body. When my spouse talked, some part of myself, way down deep inside, could not stand to listen because it felt the same way it did when my parents had money trouble. I felt sad, defensive, unsure- which came out as anger and the inability to listen. And so I just emotionally clammed up and couldn’t be collaborative at all.
That money class made us talk- and cry- a lot.
But it also helped us to work through those old voices, old experiences and emotions so we could communicate – actual two-way communication! – about money.
I believe this triggering and inability to hear happens in a lot of conversations, but especially in partnerships. In a spiritual way, I sometimes think that our partners are here just to help us grow and heal those particular things that they trigger in us. (That’s a Romantic perspective, and not always true, but I think it’s worth investigating.)
If you are trying to talk to your spouse or partner about something, and it triggers them, it might be that they are not hearing you– they are hearing and feeling things from a long time ago. And they may not know how to accept those feelings, look at where they came from, and begin to heal them, so they shut down or get angry. And if they can’t recognize these things, it may mean you’ll have the same fight over and over again.
Nowadays, we both understand more about where and why we get triggered. And we make safe places to sit together, stay in our hearts as much as we can, and let that old stuff out. Sometimes it is exactly like cleaning a wound- painful, oozy, and requires much patience. But it’s worth it, of course.
There are two key tools we have learned to deal with this:
- To feel what we feel. To not skip over the feeling into anger or frustration. To say, “I’m sad about that,” (or whatever emotion) and ask for time to work on it together.
- When we work on it, we ask, “Remembering that feeling, when was the first time I felt that?” The first time is where the wound lives. And that’s the place you go to heal it. Often, this wound is from our childhood.
Sometimes you may need the help of a therapist or couples coach, but if you can learn to listen to the old wound, be patient with it, and keep your ‘together space’ as loving as possible, you can heal the wound. It is in that healing, that acceptance, that you will find you communicate better because the trigger goes away.
When our spouse or co-worker or whoever is not communicating well with us, it may not be us- it may be how they hear and feel us and how it triggers old pain. Something useful to check in with yourself and your partner about if you’re having trouble talking.