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Marriage 911 02/05/18

Leaning into the Fire

Young couple arguing

Do you have difficulty attending to your mate when they are angry? Do you want to solve any problem they bring to you as opposed to simply listening? Do you 'talk down' to them, dismissing them and their concerns?

It is very difficult to stay fully present to our mate. This is even more the case when they are saying something that is threatening.

To get help for your marriage from Dr. Hawkins and his qualified staff, please visit The Marriage Recovery Center website or call 206-219-0145.

Imagine the following scenario:

Carla and Dean have been married for 18 years and their children are nearly grown. They have reached a point of financial stability and yet Carla has grown increasingly weary in her marriage.

"I never feel fully heard," she said during their counseling session. "Dean tries to manage my feelings, talk me out of them and tell me why they not right. I am so sick and tired of not being heard."

Dean looked puzzled.

"I do try to bring reason into the picture," he said. "I don't think she is 'right' in what she is saying, and so 'yes,' I do argue with her. Is that wrong?"

"Yes," I said. "Her feelings and perceptions are never 'wrong.' They are her feelings and perceptions. She has the right to think her own thoughts and have her own opinions. She needs to feel safe in bringing them to you without you overreacting and dismissing her."

"That's what happens," Carla said. "I know I get angrier and angrier, the more I feel unheard."

"But, what if she is wrong?" Dean said.

"So what?" I asked. "Can't she be wrong? Can't she have some things not perfectly right without you stepping in to correct her? It's no wonder she gets angrier and angrier. She has some things she is trying to say. She has some issues she wants to be heard about. You can live with her not saying them as nice and neatly as you might prefer."

"But what about saying them gently?" Dean said.

"Yes, it's always easier for us to hear when the message comes in a gentle manner. But, that won't always happen. We need to be able to go with the flow at times, being sensitive to the moment."

"That would be great," Carla said. "I always feel boxed in by rules. I would really just like to be heard."
        
Here are some additional steps you can take for leaning into the fire:

1. Allow for times of intensity.

For as much as we like calm and peaceful encounters, there will be those messy times where there is intensity. Plan for them. Expect them. Create space in your emotional life for them. Remind yourself that you can 'be with' your mate and their fire will diminish as they are heard.       

2. Look beneath the fire for the real message.

Beneath your mate's fire is a message you need to hear. They wouldn't be shouting if they didn't need to be heard and if you hadn't silenced their voice. The message is not going away — it will come back again and again.  

3. Invite criticism.

Listen to the criticism and invite even more of it. Almost invariably there is more fire where that came from. While you don't like the fire, don't want the fire and want to simply put the fire out, there comes a time when you must invite the fire.

4. Validate your mate's concerns.

Having invited the fire, listen carefully to it. What is the message you need to hear and validate? What has your mate been trying to say that you have not wanted to hear? How might you 'sit with' your mate's concerns without being overwhelmed?

5. Change.

Now, change. Let their words impact and change you. You don't have to agree with everything, but you can certainly agree with much of it. Find the areas of legitimate concern and change. Cultivate a lasting change process so that the fire doesn't build again.   

Do you try to put the fire of concern out before understanding it? Do you avoid the fire of concern, only to have it rise again?

We'd love to hear from you. Share your feedback below or send a confidential note to Dr. David Hawkins and his team and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center and my Marriage Intensives on www.marriagerecoverycenter.com. You'll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

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