This was first published on KSL.com
Many couples who are having problems in their relationship get stuck because they are both holding onto resentment over past wrongs. This resentment can build up for years around a long list of slights, offenses or mistreatment. Even if you both learn new relationship or communication skills and start behaving better, the long-held resentment can still trigger your ego to keep some distance.
Your ego rises up to protect and promote you; that is its job. It thinks it’s helping you by holding onto anger or past hurts. It thinks this resentment protects you from further mistreatment, but it’s actually making things worse. When you get stuck in resentment, you are creating a relationship that is distant, passive-aggressive, divided, lonely and cold. This is not the relationship you want.
Take a minute and think about the kind of relationship you do want. If you got to design it and create any dynamics, feelings and behaviors you wanted, what would it look like? Would it be safe, full of trust and love, unselfish, giving, kind and understanding? Would it include both parties forgiving quickly and letting the other be a work in progress? How would you handle disagreements and conflict? Take the time to write down on paper what your dream relationship would look like.
Now, remember you are creating a fantasy and real-life can’t ever live up to that, but you also can’t create something better if you can’t see. So, figuring it out is the first step to creating it.
Next, what kind of behaviors would you need to adopt if you wanted to create this? How would you need to show up differently? You don’t have control over the other person, so you have to start by changing your own behavior. You may want to ask a friend, coach, or counselor to help you figure this out if you can’t see it.
Here are some suggestions for making that happen:
1. Remember life is a classroom and your romantic partner is your greatest teacher
You have attracted this person into your life to help you grow and become smarter, wiser and more loving. Their job is to push your buttons and trigger your fear issues, giving you opportunities to see them and work on them. That is why every relationship is a perfect storm of fear. Your fears create behaviors that trigger their fears, and their fears trigger behavior that triggers you even more. Around and around you can go, getting more distant, unsafe and divided.
When you see your relationship as your perfect classroom, you will see “perfect lessons for you” in every past mistreatment. Those weren’t slights; they were triggers to give you a chance to improve yourself. How did you do? Did you react badly and further damage the relationship? What could you have done differently to turn their fear-driven bad behavior around and stopped the cycle? If you focus more on your own past bad behavior and work on fixing that, you will get a lot farther than you would by holding resentment about theirs.
2. See every moment as your chance to forgive and grow
When you see your spouse’s bad behavior as your own school class, you harbor less resentment and handle situations better. You will also feel more motivated to rise to the occasion and take the high road — because the issue isn’t really about mistreatment; it’s about your growth.
I have written many articles on forgiveness for KSL.com. You should look some of them up because every really good relationship is made of two people who are good forgivers. If your relationship is full of resentment, you aren’t forgiving. You might hold onto past hurts because you think it punishes the other person or protects you from future pain, but this isn’t true. It actually creates less love and more mistreatment. Your partner feels the wall you have up, and this makes them afraid for themselves, so they put their wall up.
You will always create exactly what you fear. In focusing on protecting yourself, you are giving no love and you won’t get any back. When you set aside resentment and forgive, and start giving love (even if it’s undeserved), your partner will genuinely want to love you back.
3. Take responsibility for your fear issues
You must take responsibility for your bad behavior in the relationship. Your insecurities and fears (and the bad behavior they create) are your jobs to fix. Try to name your fear triggers when they happen. Are you feeling fear of failure and not feeling good enough? Do you feel taken from or mistreated (which is fear of loss)? Can you tell which fear your spouse is battling? When you can name them, you will also know what you and they need (validation and reassurance).
When you get triggered, instead of either shutting down or exploding, you can say, “I need you to reassure me and love me through the insecurities this has triggered in me. Could you do that?” Or ask, “What do you need right now to make you feel safer with me?” If you can learn to quiet each other’s fears, the relationship will improve fast.
Your partner probably needs you to listen, honor and respect their right to think and feel the way they do. They also need you to own your past bad behavior and apologize for it. Even if you think they behaved worse, own your part and say sorry. Being vulnerable and humble creates a safer space where they are more likely to own their bad behavior too.
If you get angry and fly off the handle (regularly) you are, again, having a fear issue and it is your job to fix it. You only get angry or offended when you fear failure or your fear of loss and feel either insulted, taken from or mistreated. If anger is an issue for you, identify the fear trigger that gets you most of the time and start practicing getting a handle on it, all by yourself. Choose to trust your value cannot be diminished by anyone or anything. If your spouse gets disappointed or frustrated with your behavior, there might be some good lessons there, but you still have the same intrinsic value as everyone else. If you see yourself and your value as unchangeable you won’t get angry as often.
Then, choose to trust the universe that you are safe all the time and can’t fail or lose anything unless it serves you to lose it as part of your perfect classroom. If you choose a perspective of fearlessness and safety, your spouse will no longer be a threat, and you won’t get angry or offended as often.
Resentment is by far one of the most dangerous emotion in your relationships. It can build walls and create disconnection that can even become permanent. Instead of worrying about the past, focus today on showing up with love and kindness, quiet your spouse’s fears with lots of validation and reassurance, show them you see their goodness more than their faults, and be quick to own and apologize when you do wrong. Nothing erases resentment faster than a sincere apology.
You can do this.
Coach Kim Giles is a human behavior, people skills expert. She is the CEO and founder of 12 Shapes Inc and provides Team Building and People Skills Training for companies and individuals.
This was first published on KSL.com
This is kind of a generic question, but things happen and I don’t know how to figure out the right way to respond and fast enough. I am a slow processor and struggle with immediate reactions. I also just wonder if you have a process or way to find the right response in a situation that would help me avoid bad behavior?
I am going to share a process in this article you could use to help you find the right solution or response to any issue that may arise, though it is most useful with people problems. This is a procedure that will help you make sure you are seeing the situation, yourself and other people involved accurately — which is the most important part of good decision-making. If you are reacting without the whole story, or you have made up a story that isn’t really true, you are not going to respond appropriately.
We all have a subconscious tendency to apply “story” to events, which complicates them and creates more suffering. For example, if someone says they can’t go out with you this weekend, you might add story that they don’t really like you, you must have offended them, they like other people more than you, or you are just not enough. All of those scenarios are story. The only fact is they can’t go out. The story you tell yourself is fiction, and it is completely in your control. You could tell yourself a different story, one that might create better behavior if you wanted to.
Here is my Clarity Questions Process that will help you remove inaccurate story and choose a balanced, love-motivated response to any problem. Not every question will be relevant every time, but some of them will.
1. Is this problem really about you? Or, is it really about the other person’s fear issues and it just got projected onto you? Remember that it's hurt people who hurt people. Most of the time when they are hateful toward you, they are spewing their own self-hatred and fear of failure at you because they aren’t strong enough to own it. If this is really about them, let it go and work on being balanced, mature and loving yourself.
2. If the problem is about them, what are they afraid of? Are they afraid they aren’t good enough? Are they afraid things won’t be the way they want them to be? Are they afraid of being mistreated? Has this created fear-driven, bad behavior?
3. What are you afraid of about this situation? Is it failure or loss?
4. What do you need to feel safe right now?
5. What do they need to feel safer in the world?
6. Is there anything you can do about this? What is actually in your control? You can only be responsible for things that are in your control. If you have no control, it isn’t your responsibility or your problem. Let it go and work on being balanced, mature and loving yourself.
7. Take 100% responsibility for whatever is in your control. Don’t make excuses. Own that you behaved badly as much as possible because the more you were — or are — responsible for, the more power you have to fix things. (Ego really hates being responsible because it prefers blaming and complaining, but these actions leave you powerless to improve things.)
8. Remember you have the same infinite, absolute, unchanging worth as a human being just like everyone else. We all have the same value, so no part of this situation can diminish you (unless you choose to let it). This will make you feel safer, which will help you to respond in a less selfish manner. When you are afraid of not being good enough, you always respond whichever way will make you feel safer. You won’t be able to focus on the needs of others.
9. Remember that everything about this experience is here to serve your growth and learning. The universe is a wise teacher that knows what it’s doing, and it brought you this problem to stretch the limits of your love and help you become wiser, stronger or more loving. When you accept this situation as happening for you — not to you — you will see it accurately and respond better. Trusting that every experience is the perfect one for you takes away the fear of loss, mistreatment and feelings of being taken from. From this place, you can again respond less selfishly and think about what other people need.
10. Is the other person involved in this situation tired, hungry or incapable of mature behavior because they haven’t had the opportunity to learn a better way of handling life? What has happened in their past that could be affecting their behavior here?
11. Is there any chance that the emotion you are feeling right now is one that has shown up repeatedly throughout your life? Is there any chance you had the fear that this situation is triggering long before this experience with this person? Is it your issue and possibly a big lesson that you still haven’t learned, so it keeps showing up? What could this emotion be here to teach you to do? If you had to solve this emotion inside yourself without involving anyone else, what is the work you probably need to do?
12. What are all your possible responses to this situation? Write down every possible option — even the bad ones. Make sure you write each behavior option down with a good, loving attitude and again with a bad, fearful, defensive attitude. For example, you could speak your truth with anger and hate, or you could speak your truth from trust and love (same option two different attitudes).
13. Next to each option write down what you think the outcome of choosing that behavior would look like.
14. Cross out all the fear-driven, negative, bad behavior options and choose a love-driven, strong yet kind, respectful response that feels right to you.
If you still cannot tell which response is the right one, apply WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). Most of the time, that is your answer. If you trust your intrinsic value is unchangeable and your journey is the perfect classroom for you, you should be able to respond in a strong and loving fashion, honoring and respecting yourself and your needs along with the other person and theirs. Practice this procedure and it will get easier and easier to see the answer clearly.
You can do this.
Coach Kimberly Giles is a master executive coach and a popular corporate trainer doing people skills training and team building experiences with her 12 Shapes Relationship System. She is the CEO of https://www.upskillrelationships.com
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.