“Zerrin knows how to listen well, so why did she interrupt me? She must be getting tired of me having negative thoughts about life, so she just interrupted to stop me from whining. Living with me has to be hard–she may be just getting tired of me, period. I’m a mess.”
In a previous blog I wrote about how we develop stories in our head when a conflict happens. It is an attempt to bring clarity to the situation and therefore a greater measure of control and security.
Usually the stories develop along the lines of us berating ourselves for what happened or blaming the other person. Rarely does either lead to healthy resolve.
What does? And what do we do with the stories in our head?
First, we must take note of their existence, all the while realizing they may or may not be true.
Author and researcher Brene Brown says it this way:
“When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.”
If we deny the existence of the story in our head, it will skew how we live and relate to those around us. In my example above, if I had not recognized I was telling myself a story that may or may not be true, I stood a good chance of viewing Zerrin inaccurately. I might have come to see her as someone who is no longer on my side–no longer my friend but an enemy.
Second, we must check out the truth of the story in our head. By doing so, we pave the way for making a new and better ending to the story.
After the moments of tension dial down, I come to my wife and say: “Honey what took place a little bit ago was uncomfortable for me and probably you as well. I am not sure what happened back there, but I had a story that developed in my head to try to explain it. I don’t know if any or all of it is true. Can I share and talk with you about it?”
Third, when your spouse agrees to listen, speak out loud the story that took place in your head.
Take great care to control what you say and how you say it. Be as calm as possible. Don’t berate yourself or blame the other. When such care is taken, this is a helpful way to start discussions in a marriage, a friendship, or even with a co-worker when tension or conflict takes place.
Here is what to do if you are the one listening to another’s story:
- Listen quietly and patiently. He or she is explaining what happened in their mind and heart – and it feels to them like they are taking a great risk in doing so.
- Do your best to not react defensively to the story–remember the storyteller is simply telling the story to learn whether it is true or not and ultimately create or strengthen the connection in the relationship.
- Thank them for taking such a risk and telling their story.
- THEN you can begin to share if any of their story is correct or not and why, as well as share the story you had created in your mind over the same incident.
I fully understand that not everyone you know would be willing to engage in healthy conversations as I suggest. This is unfortunate but true.
At the very least, learn to recognize the stories in your head, and do your best at determining their truth so they will not dictate how you live and love.
In my opening example above, Zerrin knew something had happened between us, but did not know the story in my head. Once explained, she was able to dispel it’s myths, and assure me of her love while explaining her own story and receiving my affirmation of love at the same time.
We moved beyond the conflict. We both learned from the experience. Re-connection took place. We grew closer together.
You can experience the same!
Question: What story is or has been going through your mind about your spouse that is hindering your intimacy with each other? Share this blog with your spouse, then ask to share with him or her your story! You can leave a comment by clicking here.