Well, obviously if I’m putting quotes around “doesn’t work,” it means my advice really does work – and powerfully! But I get it: what if you take the initiative during a moment of high tension to be calm and caring, but they still keep coming at you like a wild man or woman? Don’t worry – just be patient, and watch this video…you’ll get it! If you are reading this from the blog front page, click the title of this article, or else just click this link right here…
When tension breaks out between you and your partner, do anger and blame take you over – so totally! – that you can’t stop yourself from saying things that can only make it all worse – even if you are TOTALLY RIGHT? Here’s a little teaching that might help you out…to watch the video if you’re on this blog’s front page, click on this article’s title, or else just click this link.
There you are, having a rational discussion, when suddenly your partner misinterprets something you said – and goes ballistic on you! Even worse, no matter how you explain, they CLING to their anger – they won’t listen to reason! Well, the next time this happens, just think about this: (from the front page of the Beyond Therapy blog, click on the title of this article, or else just click this link
When squabbles come up between you and your partner, are you a straight-talking truth-teller? Or is that just how you rationalize being mean? There is a better way, you know: you can actually handle these scenes in a way that brings you closer together, instead of creating a rift! If you are on this blog’s front page click the title of this article to watch the video, or else just click this link.
You love each other – so why is it so weird? This could be the key….if you are on the blog front page, click on this article’s title to get to the video page, where you can click this link…
Anxiety and panic attacks are epidemic. I hope this brief video is helpful in opening the door to your journey: to ending this torment once and for all…to access the video click here (or if you are on the blog front page, click on the title of this intro first, then the link will appear…)
I wish I didn’t see this so often with couples – one partner feels the other is just way too anxious or insecure – and they’re sick of it! But no matter how much of a “good guy” or gal they think they’ve been, it is almost ALWAYS the case that they haven’t worked as deeply as they think…if you’re on this blog’s homepage with all the other articles, first click on the title of this article – then once you’re one the page where this article is all by itself, you will be able to click this link to watch the video
It’s a basic timeless relationship conflict, but it runs so deep:
Neat vs. Sloppy.
One of you is an organized clean-as-you-go (then go back and tidy) neat-freak, while the other is a slipshod slovenly mess.
This conflict usually goes on for years and leads to endless arguing, frustration, resentment, and all kinds of relationship misery.
I speak from experience, because my wife of 20 years is efficient, meticulous, and clean, while I am a scattered spontaneous slob.
I also speak from experience when I tell you that we have completely solved this dilemma.
I will share how we did this – because make no mistake, until you really resolve it, a major chunk of your marriage (or relationship) is dismal.
Let’s start with the obvious: nobody really likes or wants to exist in a mess – not even us slobs. If we could hire someone to follow behind us and pick up after us, we would –
(EXCEPT for our work areas – some of us thrive when our papers, or materials, or whatever we use to create are scattered all about our studio or office in a private disorder that makes sense to us, that is a living breathing part of our process – but even then we wouldn’t mind a small invisible angel or two hovering around us and straightening up a little, just keeping things from getting too out-of-hand-)
-But that aside –
Nobody likes a dirty kitchen or bathroom, or clothes strewn everywhere; or junk and debris and all the myriad byproducts of living cluttering up our life spaces – nobody!
So then really, we’re all starting out more on the same page than we might think –
But if that’s the case, then why do us slobs get so pissed and resentful when we are relentlessly nagged and harrassed about it?
Look: we don’t want you to nag us, and we don’t want you to pick up after us either. We basically just want that mess to magically go away…like when I Dream of Jeannie blinks her eyes!
– and when that doesn’t happen, we feel…
Well that’s the whole thing: we feel just as lousy and claustrophobic as you do, but even worse, because there is the added self-loathing of knowing that we aren’t taking responsibility for cleaning up our own mess, even though it’s not a big deal at all, but it totally sucks –
Does that sound confused? Delusional?
No, let me tell you about delusional:
Let’s say I, as a slob, come home for lunch, and immediately kick my dirty boots into the middle of the hallway, toss my papers and jacket onto the couch, and dump my keys and coins and some dirty napkins onto the little table – I just created a huge mess, right?
Well, guess what: there’s no mess in my mind, because if I were to scan the scene for a mess to clean up, I would see a totally clean space, because there are the boots that I have to move in a minute, and there’s the stuff on the couch I’m going to pick up, and there’s that stuff on the table that goes in the drawer, so everything is clean and there’s nothing there except the stuff that’s so about to happen that in my mind it’s already happened – but wait there’s more:
It could be too many years of mommy picking up after us (while daddy ignored her or put her down) – but it might also be all those years of mommy or daddy not picking up after themselves, not owning their own lives and emotions, and the formative pictures and voices through endless family and social traumas imprinted on our heart, paralyzing us so we can’t move to clean up because – we don’t know why but we can’t move – or we’re rebelling, because we resent and hate them in ways we haven’t even faced yet, even though we still love them desperately, and now we’re stuck with all these subconscious self-sabotaging conflicting impulses, or maybe we tried to do something good a long time ago and were punished severely, directly – or indirectly, insidiously – and now we hate ourselves but we can’t admit that so we hate you instead and we serve the worst parts of ourselves like a slave and we tell ourselves that we’re big and strong, or weak and worthless–
-Whatever! But the point is that when you when you say holy crap, what’s your problem, can’t you just not make a mess? What are you, five? The answers are actually:
Maybe not, and maybe…
No, I’m not kidding, and that’s just one sketch of an origin story –
There are so many possible psychodramas we have survived that express themselves in how “messy” and disorganized we are, not even mentioning innate strengths and weaknesses – and look:
I’m not making excuses – we are ultimately all responsible for developing the life hygiene of a healthy adult– being clean and respectful of ourselves and others – but my point is that things are more complicated than they appear on the surface –
Let’s give equal time to the fact that the partner who is neat and organized is literally thrown into psychological and emotional chaos by a partner who won’t keep a clean orderly house, because that house is not safe – they can’t think, they can’t function, and on top of it all it’s just gross and suffocating – so they can’t be safe with their partner, the one person who they count on to create a safe space not only doesn’t care about their safety, but actually actively hurts them, sabotages their very wellbeing –
And depending upon their own background, they could be in a lot of trouble – disaster even! – if things are messy….it could mean they are not measuring up, or that the rent won’t get paid, or it could mean the beast that haunted their childhood will come out: the belt or the bitch –
Get the picture? This stuff is deep – it’s beyond rational thought –
It’s not about clean and orderly, it’s about care and safety and love and respect –
So how do you solve it?
You start by understanding two things which are true for both of you:
1) Your partner is not deliberately trying to sabotage or attack you. They are growing out seeds that were planted long before they met you.
2) When the two of you establish a constant state of care and connection between the two of you – the sublime intimacy you both long for – all of these issues will disappear.
Does that mean that the messy one will become a model of hygiene and order? Perhaps…or maybe they will simply get better and better, more conscientious, over time, as their physical actions catch up with their deep sincerity…
Does that mean the nagging control-freak cleaning Nazi will loosen up?
I would say: almost definitely, as the love between you grows and you both feel your hearts cared for in a living way (and as a thoroughbred Eastern European Jew I reserve the right to use the word “Nazi” any time I damn well choose).
I changed – I am so much neater and cleaner and more responsible now. I love caring for my wife’s heart in that way – and I respect myself so much more.
My wife changed – she stopped nagging me, and instead of looking at my messes as conscious communications of how much I (didn’t) love her, she stopped playing the victim and took care of the mess herself – until I decided that I cared too much about her not to vastly improve, even though I still have these weird residual psychological and temperamental blocks that leave some work yet still to go…
But both of us changed because we changed everything else about our relationship – we created a dynamic of constant care and connection and communication that put this other issue of clean vs. messy into a totally different context…instead of it being this giant monster between the two of us, it became a door we walked through together, towards ever-greater care and intimacy….
And when creating that quality of connection becomes your front-and center priority, all the other details – big, small, and even seemingly insurmountable – work themselves out….they dissipate like sand castles in the ocean of the love you create together….
I speak from experience, not fantasy.
And if you sense the truth of this, and want some help with it, you know where to find me.
One of the biggest challenges couples face is: how to talk about “eggshell” topics – those topics that you can’t discuss without fighting, or hurting feelings, or getting defensive – topics that one way or another, whenever you approach them, you both ending up feeling like crap about the relationship…
Topics like: in-laws and relatives and friends you disagree on; past hurts, or future plans; personal hygiene, kids – and of course, money…you avoid these topics, yet they simmer unspoken beneath the surface; live-wire obstacles to real trust and intimacy and fulfillment.
That’s why there shouldn’t be ANY “eggshell” topics in your relationship at all – and I promise you it can be done –
But for now, let’s just address how to actually have a breakthrough, and be able to discuss these “eggshell” topics in a new way.
First, you must understand why the topics are “eggshell” in the first place: it’s not just because you disagree with each other; it’s because you actually don’t feel safe with each other. Deep in your subconscious, you are both afraid that, because you feel differently about a topic, your partner will reject you – a painful experiences we avoid at all costs.
In fact, what you are both really avoiding is the need to change. Depending on who is “more” responsible for the particular situation, this change can take many forms – but at its core, it means a change in how you relate to each other. It means discussing “eggshell” topics in a way that both of you end up actually feeling closer and more loving with each other – better, not worse, about the relationship.
Topics are “eggshell” because they trigger negative emotions – and negative emotions make you both feel unsafe. This means that the art of discussing them successfully is, instead, to trigger positive emotions. This is not only easier than it sounds, it is actually one of the highest blessings of a relationship – the feeling that you are safe with each other no matter what comes up between you.
To do this, you must powerfully create a certain feeling between you – otherwise, the negative emotions will take on a life of their own. This requires that you speak to each other in a very special way. And since you are the one who is taking the lead on it, at first, only you will know how to do this – which you demonstrate by example.
So here are five basic steps to discussing “eggshell topics:
Look into your heart and find the place that appreciates your partner, that is grateful for their being in your life. Find everything you love and honor and respect about them – all of their best qualities, all the ways you have known them to be good and kind and smart and terrific, as human beings, as your best friend and lover, perhaps as a parent. Really connect with this knowing within you.
Approach your partner and tell them that you love them. Tell them specific things you love about them. Tell them how grateful you are that they are in your life.
While holding this attitude of love and care – this reality – in your heart and mind, tell your partner that there is something that you want to talk about. Say that – so far – it feels like the two of you can’t talk about it without feeling uncomfortable, but you want to be able to talk about anything and still feel the love between you. Say that no matter what they say, you respect how they feel, and you love them. But you have to be able to talk about this topic, and there are things you want to say as well. Tell them you are willing to change and compromise and care about everything they have to say, to make sure they feel totally safe and loved by you no matter what, every step of the way – but also, this thing needs to be talked about – and you love them (you say again).
Empathize with their point of view: in other words, put into words how their point of view would make sense from their perspective: “I know you work hard for the money and it doesn’t seem like a reasonable purchase” “I know you don’t want to start a fight with your mother by not going” “I know how you must be so tired that you’re not even thinking about putting down the toilet seat” – then say, “But this is hard for me because…” and state your side of it. THEN say “I don’t care about being right, I just want us to figure out a way we can compromise on this and both feel great about our relationship and each other and the whole situation – and I love you!”
Throughout the conversation, keep telling them that you love them. That you support them. That you are so grateful they are in your life. Touch them gently, with love. Insert compliments into the conversation – things you love, admire, respect, and appreciate about them.
THE POINT IS NOT TO MANIPULATE – IT IS TO BE AS SINCERE AS POSSIBLE!
None of this is manipulative – it is caring about the fact that they don’t feel safe with the topic, so you are creating the space of safety for both of you. This is not “fake” because, well, if you don’t feel this way towards them, then why are you in the relationship?
No matter what they say, keep affirming how much you love and appreciate them.
There are many versions of “eggshell” topics, and this is just a basic overview of a general approach. It’s a radical way, and you have to be open-minded…but remember, conversation with your partner is just like sex: there is nobody looking but the two of you, so don’t try to be “cool”, instead care and connect and support each other, and then only magic will happen.
If it is hard to picture or understand what I have described here – or if you think that it is “just not you” – then I assure you, I can help you find the version of this approach that “is” you.
The big secret is: when you both feel completely safe with each other – all the eggshell topics will disappear – there will truly be nothing that you are uncomfortable talking about, and no problems you can’t solve together.
And when you have a relationship where you can talk about anything at all, you are both set free to become the man or woman you have always wanted to be – and to create the relationship with each other that both of your hearts have always longed for.
Please contact me with any questions or comments – this is all Truth, and I am here to help you with it.
This is always the first thing anyone must learn to break through their old habits of fighting and arguing in their relationship – or in any life conflict, really…