Weed Pulling

               My friend and colleague  Dr. Samuel Raj taught me to think about marriage as a garden. In this garden of your relationship he would say “you have to pull the weeds that are coming up and choking it”.  A weed refers to something that grows quickly and is not wanted, in other words, weeds are conflicts.   Resolving conflicts in your relationship require a very special kind of dialogue.  This particular dialogue was developed by psychologist and couples therapist Dr. Elyn Bader.  In this dialogue one of you will initiate the discussion and one of you will be the active listener. If you are the initiator you get to freely disclose what is bothering you, including some of your thoughts about your partner.  If you are the active listener you will accept what is being said with no verbalized judgment toward your partner.  If you do this each of you will feel emotionally safe and this will allow for open and honest communication.  From this, mutual understanding is possible.  It sounds too easydoesn’t it?  Let’s look more closely at how it works.

               If you are the active listener you will listen calmly without taking what you hear personally or becoming defensive.  You will ask questions, acting curious and interested so you can better understand your partner’s experience.  It is important to remember during this dialogue that you don’t own the problem being discussed and only you can manage your own reactions.  You then provide a re-cap of what you heard to ensure the information you received is accurate and your partner feels understood.  When this point is reached you, as the listener do your best to put yourself in your partner’s place and respond with empathy until a soothing moment occurs between you.  You will know it when you see it because when someone is understood in a difficult circumstance they often cry or have some sort of emotional reaction.  Remember that you can hold on to your own perspective and still imagine what it’s like for your partner.  Also remember that your partner is a separate person with their own feelings, thoughts, personality and family history.  You only need to listen, not look for solutions.

If you are the initiator you reveal yourself and focus on one issue.  Be clear on what your main concern is and make sure your partner is ready to listen.  Stay on track as you describe what you want.  Express your feelings and thoughts.  Go to the deeper emotions that show your partner your most vulnerable self.  For example, you could say, “I have acted angry over this issue but I am really scared because I’m afraid we are going to hurt our children emotionally”.  In this way you own this problem because it is an expression of who you are.  Of course, you will avoid blaming, accusing or name calling because blaming stops you from knowing yourself.  You also maximize your chance of being heard.  As you share, be open to self discovery by exploring your personal, inner experience, going deeper into how you feel.  You tell yourself, “this process is about my willingness to take a risk to speak or discover my truth.  It’s also about increasing my ability to tolerate the expression of our differences.

So that is how you can deal with conflict.  You’ll notice that in this process neither of you are right nor wrong.  The problem is not even totally solved.  This is a journey and you and your partner are both on it together.  There is no room for right or wrong.  If you believe that you require more assistance with managing conflict in your relationship I encourage you to contact me so I can help you in this process. Happy weed pulling!

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