OK … so I am a week behind in my comments!
This is a great week as we are committing to the ritual of Appreciations. This exercise is a great reminder for me to express gratitude for John, who he is, what he does for me and how he is in the world.
Now the tricky thing is … No Repetition Allowed. That means I need to be present and not distracted in our interactions, conversations and our time together – easier said than done because I am so easily distracted. I will practice being present and give you the update next week!
I really want to comment on the Intentional Dialogue. It was the exercise in “Truth #5 – It’s not what you say, it is how you say it.” The intentional dialogue was the foundational tool that saved our relationship. We continue to use it when stuff comes up that is sticky.
What I have found is that the process of the intentional dialogue has created safety in our relationship. It is where the space between begins to be real and sacred.
When we became more skilled at using the intentional dialogue, not only did we feel safe, we could be vulnerable and healing and growth took place.
If there was only one tool that I would recommend, it would be the intentional dialogue. It takes practice! And don’t start with the big stuff – when we first learned it, we practiced at the restaurant over what we were ordering. We the progressed to small irritations. The hot conversations were done with the facilitation of our therapist/coach. Over time we have become quite adept at being able to stay in the dialogue and getting to a resolution.
A wonderful thing about the intentional dialogue process is that I have to suspend all inner dialogue, judgement, and defense – I am being asked to really listen and hear what John is saying to me and then make sure that I have heard him by mirroring back to him. If I don’t get it, I ask him to repeat what he said. When it is safe in my relationship and I know that I will eventually have a turn and be heard, it is easier to suspend my inner dialogue that interferes with my full listening to him.
I also have to suspend my judgement on how he might be feeling as it is probably different than how I might feel in the same situation. I am being asked to not only validate, but empathize with his feelings and thoughts about the issue. I have to come to realize that there are two perspectives in any situation and mine is not necessarily the way he sees it!
The intentional dialogue is useful in any relationship, especially with our children. As parents, we often talk over our kids and fail to get the essence of their words and the emotions they are experiencing. We want our children and grandchildren to feel safe with us so that they can come to us with their joy and hurts alike.
For me, Truth #6 – Negativity is Invisible Abuse, is a critical truth. I have always emphasized the importance of safety and this truth highlights how negativity destroys safety. Helen LaKelly Hunt states: (P.73 in Making Marriage Simple) “Negativity makes your partner feel unsafe. Without safety in your relationship, your partner will never grow. And your relationship will never be transformed.”
And later, p. 173 “Negativity is toxic to your relationship. We define negativity as any words, tone of voice, facial expressions, or behaviours your partner says feel negative to them. No growth can happen in a relationship that is full of negativity. So if you want you and your partner to grow, you need to detox your relationship of all negativity.”
So how do you break out of the habits that are potentially negative. Two key ways: 1) Shift from judgment to curiosity and 2) share what you appreciate about each other.
The “ah ha” moment for me came when I stopped taking Crystal’s comments so personally. I am way more covert than she is. As a good turtle I keep my thoughts to myself. She, on the other hand, is more open about how she views a situation and says it. In the past I might take her comments personally as criticism. The shift in consciousness for me was realizing that is just who she is – she is not directing her comments at me. The key point – your partner is not you.
Crystal and I are taking on another challenge while we finish the 10 week program. Every night before going to bed we are sharing three appreciations with each other. The key is NO REPETITIONS ALLOWED!! (P. 174) “The point of this exercise is to shift your focus from what you don’t like, to what you do. As your focus shifts, you’ll both start seeing more and more of the things you like – and each of you will be inspired to do more for your relationship.”
Energy follows attention.
The more you focus on the good,
the more good there will be focus on.