In any relationship, conflict is inevitable. The difference between happy couples and unhappy couples is all about HOW they navigate the rough waters of conflict. So what is the million dollar question that happy couples are willing to ask? In that very moment when you are frustrated, angry or annoyed, stop and ask yourself, “What is it like to be with me right now?”
This question is a doorway to braver, deeper, and more intimate relationships– guaranteed. By asking the question, you instantly shift the lens from other to self, inviting internal reflection. It is human to focus heavily and relentlessly on all of the ways that one’s partner is disappointing, infuriating, wrong, etc. And when both partners do that, the atmosphere quickly becomes one of shame and blame. You know, stuff that gets you nowhere. In my darker moments, I am guilty of this very thing. When I get upset, it is tempting to start to list all the ways that my husband is entirely too this and not nearly enough that. If I give into that urge however, I end up making myself into a victim and justifying my anger, my disappointment, my boredom. But I know there is a braver path so I work like hell to find it ASAP.
Try replacing your judgments with the question, “What is it like to be with me right now?” How am I coming across to my partner right now? You won’t believe how quickly it shifts your perspective. This kind of introspection certainly does not replace the need to raise concerns or to ask for changes from your partner, but taking the time to look within does mean that your partner is far more likely to be able to hear your concerns with compassion and curiosity instead of defensiveness.
You can take it even further by asking yourself, “What is going on inside of me at this time in my life that I am feeling so reactive to this quality within him?” What is the unmet need? Is it one I need to meet internally? Can I ask for support from our relationship? It probably won’t come naturally. It probably will take some practice. But it works.
Side note: this tactic is not just for romantic relationships. It can also be used by parents as well. Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn encourages parents to view themselves through their children’s eyes and, in those inevitable frantic and frazzled moments, ask, “What is it like from my child’s point of view? How do I appear right now through my child’s eyes?” So the next time you find yourself rattled, upset, angry or disappointed, stop and ask yourself, “What is it like to be with me right now?”