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  • THE Fight

    When I meet with couples for the first time, the session follows the same pattern each time: say hello, review paperwork, and open the floor to sharing what is on their minds. Some people are nervous about sharing, and that makes sense. I’m a stranger to them, we’ve just met. Creating a safe conversational space takes time. It’s slower, a bit hesitant like a shy dog who needs to sniff your hand, feel a gentle rub of the ears, before coming closer with trust all will be ok. Other people jump right in, eager to release the inner turmoil of constantly churning anxiety and distress into someone else’s hand. I call this “the hand off”; an unspoken request to please carry this turmoil for them because their relationship has had enough and is breaking under the weight of the distress.

    I ask them to describe their relationship. Tell them to begin wherever they like; tell me what they would like for me to know about them. I listen to where they start. Chronologically from how they first met? At the ceremony or decision be committed and live together? Talking about their family rather than talking about themselves? Focusing on the fight that was the breaking point for someone to make the call to me and schedule the first session?

    This is an active process for me. I’m listening and discerning how they feel about the relationship, each other, and themselves as individuals. How deeply buried under layers of hurt, disappointment, shame, anger, judgment, and self-righteousness is the love they share? Because it’s there somewhere. I believe in that idea. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be sitting in my office opening their lives to the potential scrutiny of a stranger.

    They’re fighting. It might be loudly with arguments that go on for hours. It might be quietly with days spent in parallel lives and little interaction. What brings people to my office is THE fight. It’s the fight in which the intersection of what I’m fighting against crashes into what I’m fighting for. And this can be an epic crash, because underneath it all is this:

    *I’m fighting against the ways you hurt me.

    *I’m fighting against owning my part in how I hurt you.

    *I’m fighting for my needs to feel heard and understood.

    *I’m fighting against hearing your needs because they may be too much or interfere with my needs being met.

    *I’m fighting to give you what you value in the relationship without giving up what I value in the relationship and about myself.

    *I’m fighting to be me while you are being you and can’t figure out how me + you= us without giving up on who I am.

    And most importantly:

    *I’m fighting to be back in that blissful place of love when I didn’t know there was a side of you that would act in ways, especially intentional ways, that would hurt me.

    This is THE fight. It’s not about money, household chores, or whose turn it is to walk the dog. It’s a fight for the relationship and against the behaviors that hurt it. Those are the layers that we peel back like an onion- lots of layers with lots of tears. Deeper down, at the core of all these layers, is THE fight.

    So stop fighting THE fight. Let go of fighting to get your own way and being right about everything.  That only makes a space for you in the relationship at the cost of making a space for the other person. Instead, start fighting to make a space in the relationship for the one you love. Honor their traditions, quirks, viewpoints, likes/dislikes, even when they don’t make sense to you or feel illogical. Winning this fight not only makes space for the other person, this makes space for you as well as space for us. A successful relationship is 3 entities: me + you = we. Let’s fight for everyone to have a seat at that table.

    Embrace your best self!  Anne