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The Privilege of Resolving Relationship Conflict
In a phone session I had with Shelly and Stan, a couple who have been together for six years, they described to me a conflict they had the day before. Stan had become irritated with Shelly and Shelly had responded to his irritation by withdrawing. This was a typical dynamic between them, and the distance would often continue for days until they finally talked about it or until the charged energy just dissipated. Neither was happy with the distance, yet generally both waited for the other to reach out.
In this particular conflict, Shelly decided that she didn’t want days of distance, so she went to Stan and apologized for her end of the conflict and told him that she wanted to feel close to him rather than be distant. Stan softened and they were able to quickly move through the conflict.
However, when Shelly told me about this, she complained that she was usually the one who reached out and that it “wasn’t fair.” She didn’t like it that Stan often waited and stewed for days.
“Shelly,” I asked, “How did you feel when you were able to reach out and heal the distance between you?”
“I felt good. I felt relieved.”
“Stan, how did you feel waiting and pouting?” I asked.
“I felt awful.”
“Shelly, maybe you can reframe your concept of reaching out. I believe that reaching out is a privilege. When I reach out, I move myself out of feeling like a victim and into my power. I like who I am when I reach out, and I don’t like myself at all if I stew and fume and blame and wait for the other person to apologize. Even if I believe that the other person is totally at fault, waiting for them to reach out feels awful. If the other person has really behaved badly, somewhere within they are not feeling good about it, even if they are still angry with me. When I move into compassion for the wounded part of them rather than staying stuck in my own righteousness, I feel peaceful within rather than in turmoil.
“So, instead of keep score regarding who reaches out, why not jump at the opportunity to move into your own personal power by being the one to reach out? Why not be in gratitude that you have the privilege of practicing being a loving and compassionate person?”
“Wow!” responded Shelly. “I never thought of it that way! I like that! I always do feel great when I let go of blame and open my heart. Seeing this as I ‘get’ to be the one to reach out rather than I ‘have’ to be the one to reach out makes all the difference!”
“How are you feeling about this Stan?” I asked.
“Well, I can see that I often feel like a victim and it feels terrible. I get so stuck in being angry and waiting for Shelly to fix it. I waste days feeling badly. What a waste! And even when she does finally reach out or we just reconnect because time has passed, I’m still stuck with some bad feelings. I can see that I’m choosing to be a victim rather than move into my power. Somehow, I thought that I was being powerful by being angry and waiting and I just ended up feeling terrible.”
We are not in power when we are angry and blaming. We are in power when we are behaving in a way that we value. The more responsibility we take for the conflict and for the resolution, the better we feel. There is a Hawaiian Huna prayer, called Ho'oponopono, that is about taking full 100% responsibility for everything through all time:
"Divine creator, father, mother, son as one. If I, my family, relatives and ancestors have offended you, your family, relatives and ancestors in thoughts, words, deeds and actions from the beginning of our creation to the present, we ask your forgiveness. Let this cleanse, purify, release, cut all the negative memories, blocks, energies and vibrations and transmute these unwanted energies to pure light. And it is done."
I have found that when I take full 100% responsibility for any conflict, regardless of who started it or who I believe is at fault, I feel wonderful. If I wait for the other person, I feel terrible. Which do you want?
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