One day this week, I woke up to three messages from friends about the arguments they’d had with their partners the night before. They weren’t complaining about it, just sharing the update.
I too had had a very tense conversation with my husband the previous night. The pattern seemed too conspicuous to ignore.
I had thought he and I were disagreeing about some logistical thing regarding getting groceries in this strange new reality, but when the conversation kept getting harder and higher stakes, I realized the grocery matter was not at all the real cause of the argument. The real cause was our stress and fear.
Once I realized that, I could say, “Ok, you know what’s really going on? I feel afraid and overwhelmed, those feelings have been accumulating all week, and I need you, I’m just scared.”
Once I said that, he could respond with care, share his own feelings, and we could actually connect.
Everything softened. We started working so much more harmoniously as a team doing this intense new job we are doing – of trying to create some level of normalcy for two small kids while we cope with major change and stress.
So, if this week has felt like a time of escalating tension with close people in your life, know that it is totally normal during a time like this. And it does not mean there is anything wrong with them or with your relationships.
But you can also meet those tensions with awareness and discernment, because this is not a time to let anything get in the way of the connection and support in your life.
So, what can you do? You can know that the argument you are having is probably not about the thing it seems to be about. You can know it is most likely an expression of fear and stress looking for a place to go, so that vast uncertainty can get focused into something pinpointed for a little while.
Creating conflict is one unconscious way we attempt to connect because conflict is actually a form of relationship, of mutual impact. We try to get emotions heated so that at least there is some form of interdependence, even if in a pain-causing form. But you don’t have to use the not so effective strategy of conflict to connect, feel, or express emotions. You can ask directly for the connection and listening and love.
Remember, “Stop, drop and roll” for fire safety? Well, my version of it for these times is “Stop, drop in (to what’s really happening in your heart), and say it.”
Sometimes we might not have any awareness of our underlying feelings in the moment of conflict, and we realize only after an argument, or days of tension, what is really going on. Practices like journaling, meditation, prayer, or talking honestly with others can really help bring our feelings to awareness, so we have those realizations sooner. Then, you can circle back to your loved ones, make any amends if needed, share how you are really feeling and ask for support. And you can extend that same love to the people around you. They are likely needing it.
So, tensions – normal! Stop, drop in to what’s really happening in your heart, and say it. And keep loving and supporting one another.
Photo by Chris Sabor