Last week in The Space Between: Part 1, I suggested that the fastest way forward for any couple is to really protect the Space Between. It is sacred ground, holy ground. No negativity in the Space Between. Negativity causes disconnect and from the quantum level up, what you want is connection. I went on to say that the caveat is, it is the person on the receiving end who determines whether something is negative or not. A large part of the solution is making your partner aware of negativity that they give, in a safe way.
This is the piece of the puzzle that folks are having the hardest time with because to some degree negativity can be unconscious. The solution is for both partners to
- agree that there is too much negativity in the relationship (if that is an issue) and
- commit to eliminating any negativity cold turkey.
No negativity in the Space Between.
The Challenge: Being aware of negativity
Now comes the challenge of making your partner aware of negativity and how to let each other know in a safe way, if either experiences negativity. Remember, often times it can be unconscious. I might do or say something that I think is innocuous but that my partner experiences as offensive. My suggestion is before couples start the process of eliminating all negativity, to agree on a word, a phrase, or an action that will alert their partner that something didn’t go down well. Both partners have to agree that whatever signal they come up with won’t get their backs up even more. It is just a code word or action that red flags something.
The analogy I came up with (because at Christmas we had a number of jigsaw puzzles going with the grandkids) was to think of eliminating negativity as you would working on a jigsaw puzzle together. If you get a piece I didn’t, it is a win for both of us. I don’t get upset that you found the missing piece. I am glad because it helps both of us reach our goal, of completing the puzzle. You want to let your partner know when something they did turned up as negative for you to be a win as well. You are trying to eliminate all negativity – that is the goal.
How then can you help each other do that as quickly as possible? The first step is to become more conscious when something your partner did comes across as less helpful or negative to you. The second step is then to be able to inform your partner in a safe way that something showed up that didn’t work for you.
How to become aware of negativity
Harville and Helen, and remember all the exercises in Getting the Love You Want, started out as ways for them to improve their own relationship. They decided to go cold turkey once they realized negativity was killing their relationship. To become aware of negativity, they decided on a code word. Words that worked for them like ouch, wow, oops, to let their partner know something negative had occurred. Then they immediately went about repairing the rupture.
If a code word like ouch or oops works for you great. I have had couples use sporting terms such as offsides, roughing, clipping, etc. A soccer couple decided on yellow cards, I loved that one, and a golfing couple used “fore”. But you get the idea. You have to come up with some code word or action you both agree on beforehand, to let your partner know that you experienced a negative – without it causing more friction. Then you have to sit down and talk to each other about how to prevent the rupture from taking place in the future.
Being aware of negativity is where the Safe Conversation process comes into play which I’ll look at next week. Cheers.