When disagreements arise, it can be difficult to stay connected with the disagreeing person and yet remain true to yourself at the same time. If feels more natural to either blame the other person or to walk away. But if we are to grow into emotional and relational maturity and wellness, we must learn to be able to ask and manage this question in times of conflict:
How can I be fully me and fully us at the same time?
Put it slightly differently: “I want to be true to myself (to be fully me) while I stay connected to you (to remain us), even when we disagree. How can I do that with you?”
I learned this idea from one of my family therapy supervisors many years ago: move from “either/or” thinking to “both/and” thinking.
We often think in “either/or” terms especially when we are caught up in a fight-or-flight mode during a conflict. Being able to engage in “both/and” thinking instead gives us new power for creative collaboration.
Preface: I work with high-conflict couples stuck in dysfunctional relationship patterns for many years. This post is for such couples. It does not apply to the average couple who might have short-term disagreements here and there.
The first time I see a couple for an intake session, I take time to explain to them how therapy works. For individuals, I emphasise the importance of the client’s willingness to take up the ownership of his or her own change. For couples, the story is a bit more complex.
I will say to the couple: “Many couples come in to see me hoping that therapy will cause their spouse to change. But if you have been in any longterm relationship, you will know the answer to this question: Is it possible change your spouse if he or she does not see eye-to-eye with you on that change?”
Most will answer, “No.”
I will continue, “So if you cannot change your spouse, what can you do?”
Starting in 2018, my blog will have a distinct focus. I will be writing practical, readable articles to help busy executives and discerning homemakers with helpful advice for “living and leading well.”
What do I mean by “living and leading well?” Basically, how to be happy in life and family, and how to achieve success as managers and leaders in the workplace.
The fundamentals for positive living in both family and work are actually the same. First, manage yourself. Second, manageyour relationships.
At Rekindle, we’ve been running expat support group meetings for a good part of 2016. It’s the only expat support group of its kind that I know exists in Malaysia. What’s interesting is that it has mostly been attended by trailing expat wives, and typically those who have younger children.
If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting! ~ David Bowie