If you were to rate your relationship on a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the best and 1 not so good, where would you be? And where do you want to spend the next 5 or 10 or 50 years? On Pleasure Island couples are at a 9 or 10 all the time and, I believe, that is doable for any couple.
The challenge on Rediscover – the Future, is to remove all negativity from your relationship. – to commit to a 0 negativity pledge. Again I will admit, the power of this concept is relatively new for me, yet it makes complete sense. It is logically impossible to be negative and have a great relationship. Negativity causes anxiety and when you feel anxious you don’t feel safe. It is hard to be intimate if it is not safe.
One way to practice 0 negativity is to actually use a calendar and every day check off whether it was a day free of any negativity or if something that you or your partner deemed negative crept in. Harville and Helen initiated using a calendar years ago in their own relationship and at the end of the day would put either a frowny face (some negative interaction) or a smiley face (nothing negative) in the space for that day. And just to give you some hope, they admit that it was three months before they got a smiley face!!
A negative exchange is defined as any put down – any comment, gesture or facial expression that ruptures the connection between the two of you. The caveat, of course, is that it is the person on the receiving end who determines whether it was negative or not. I could think I was just kidding, but if it wasn’t helpful for my partner then I am the one who has to change.
Your biggest challenge will be to make the unconscious, conscious, because often one partner might not recognize that something they are doing isn’t helpful. Sometimes you will know right away of course, but sometimes I might be thinking I am helping, whereas my partner would interpret my word or action as less than helpful. The critical piece here is to agree on a signal, a word or hand signal, that if one person experiences a put down, they can let their partner know without getting their partner’s back up and becoming defensive.
Working with couples, I have them start by checking in at the end of the day – did we get a smiley face or a frowny face that day. As the process becomes more familiar, I have them reconnect as soon as possible after the disconnect. They have a number of options. One is simply to redo the transaction in a more positive way. I might, for example, realize right after I said something, that it probably wasn’t a great response so I can ask if I can redo what I just said. Another possibility is to have my partner model for me what would be a more helpful transaction. Sometimes just an apology or a hug is enough to reconnect and sometimes it will take more time and a couple will have to have a dialogue about what transpired using the Safe Conversation process.
Making the unconscious, conscious will require some effort but it is so worth it. If there is no negativity coming, you can just hang out. It is completely safe – there are no arrows coming, you are not going to get zisnged. A pretty nice place to be. 0 negativity is a pre-requisite on Pleasure Island.