How many times have you felt attacked with these words from a loved one? In response, how many times did you recoil in anger or hurl back an equally insensitive accusation?
John and Elaine Leadem are licensed clinical social workers whose combined investment in the field of addiction treatment spans more than sixty years. Their commitment to helping recovering families has provided the core inspiration for the development of a "A Decision to Be IN Love"© which has helped many couples move from the traditional parallel model of recovery to strong united core support group. They are both certified Sex Addiction Therapist and have co-developed a model for treating couples during the crisis stage of recovery.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
When we behave in this way within our relationships, we are making a decision to cut off communication and opportunities for personal growth. Our behavior looks and feels childlike because we are, in essence, throwing a tantrum. Children respond this way because they are not aware of alternatives. They have not had the opportunity to develop more appropriate ways to deal with their emotions and the reactions they have to others. As adults, we may also find that our choice of alternative behaviors is lacking so we resort to childlike attitudes and actions.
Are you ready then, in this moment, to seek out a healthier way to respond to your loved one? The healthier way is one that invites forgiveness and acceptance. There are two parts to developing this new way. The first is through preparing for conflict during quiet introspection time. The second is by learning how to handle the baffling situation more effectively in the actual moment. Let’s explore these two skill sets:
It is helpful to prepare for your new healthier response long before the next challenge presents itself again. Begin by recreating in your mind those moments when someone has wronged you. This reflection may include past events in childhood or more recent times with your partner. Without judgment or criticism, ponder how you are feeling and what images come to mind.
Find support during this introspective experiment by inviting your higher power or the memory of a supportive friend into your consciousness. This will help to comfort you through what can be an uncomfortable process.
Once in this state of consolation, ask for ways you may bring the spirit of forgiveness to your loved one. The wrongs done to you may not be forgotten (at least at this time) but you can let go and seek the gift of forgiveness to flood your heart. In this meditation like experience you will hold on to the thought that
“It is not our job to right the wrongs of others. It is our opportunity to look for ways to share acceptance and understanding while remaining truthful with ourselves in this journey.”
Once we have done our personal work in preparation for facing romantic challenges we will be better prepared for the next time we may be feeling under attack from our partner.
The next time you feel attacked by what your partner says to you, it might be wise to stop for a moment, remain calm, and simply ask him or her
“Do I need to defend myself? Are you attacking me?”
When we have posed that very question to one another we have often found the answer to be quite surprising! We have usually heard from our partner that they had not been attacking us and did not intend for it to be received the way we heard it. This left us wondering how many times we have played a role in helping conflict escalate into something it was never intended to be!