Do you want to be Right or Connected?
I was at a dinner party and sat next to a woman who decided to tell me about her latest upset with the man she was in a relationship with. He had cancelled a weekend trip with her at the last minute due to work. It was supposed to be a celebratory weekend for passing a HUGE test she had taken, so this particular weekend had special meaning for her. She was upset and said to me, “Why does he do this to me all the time? I am always patient and never bug him, but THIS time was important to me. I thought he cared, but I guess he doesn’t. Work is more important to him.” And therein lies the mentality of a “victim.” I suggested a certain way she might approach him about her feelings to gain his understanding. I found out later she instead blamed and shamed him for his choices. His response, of course, was to defend, blame and shame her in return. The end result was that they broke up AGAIN. This is an incredibly common pattern!
Dilemma: Right vs. Connection
Would you rather be right or would you rather be connected to your partner when facing a challenge? I call it a dilemma because it truly feels like that in the moment. Emotions are high, you are hurting and you need your feelings to be acknowledged and validated. You want out of pain and an apology from your person is just the right medicine for relief!
Whenever you have a big emotional reaction about something, it’s just letting you know there is unresolved baggage from your past being triggered. When you blame, shame and have a high need to be right, you are holding the other person accountable for YOUR feelings and for the wounds of your past that happened way before you even met them. You are wanting them to do for you, what you have not been willing to do for yourself (which is to make your pain go away).
What does the choice to be connected look like instead? In its most basic form, you are aware of your partner’s experience and feelings, you are connected to your own feelings and you recognize what the triggers are in a situation. This way, both people exist in the conversation. Let’s imagine the woman at the dinner party was more interested in connection with her guy. She would have responded with, “I’m disappointed and hurt. I really wanted to celebrate with you this weekend as I couldn’t have passed this test without your help and support. I understand this project is important and you need to work this weekend. I know you are doing the very best you know how and I always appreciate that about you. It just hurts right now....”
First, she is connected to her “self” and accepting the responsibility that her feelings are HERS to take care of and not his. Second, she is staying connected to him by acknowledging and understanding his needs as well. In this scenario, BOTH people’s feelings and needs exist. Connection is more important than her being right and him being wrong.
There is NOTHING easy about choosing to connect over your need to be right when emotions are intense. This is actually one of my personal challenges I’ve been working with for over a decade. In my younger years, I was driven to be right, first and foremost. I needed to be validated FIRST, and then I could more easily connect to the other person’s experience. Now, after having done a lot of healing work and dealing with my baggage, I am aware of that pattern instantly and now have more ability to make a different choice. It starts with recognizing the emotional reactions are yours to take care of. The next step is developing a skill set to handle those emotions in a healthy way when they show up. If you are skilled and deliberate about connecting to yourself on a daily basis, when you face challenges with your person, you will more easily connect with them during difficult times.
Next time, try this when you feel hurt or angry (even if it’s something small – remember this is a SKILL. It requires practice!):
Ask yourself “What am I wanting them to do for me, that I am not willing to do for myself?” (i.e. validate me, fight for me, make my feelings matter, listen to me).
Once you identify what you need, start giving it to yourself. If you need compassion, talk to yourself in a compassionate way. If you need a hug, find someone safe and ask for a hug. If you need to feel heard, write in a journal about everything that you feel and then read it out loud.
It’s important to immediately start reprogramming the thoughts in your mind. Your hurt will have a story about what happened such as, “He thinks work is more important than me.” Break that story and create a new one like, "I am valued and cared about (then list off ways that you know that)."
I would love to hear any questions or thoughts you have about this. Let me know below in the comments box! Create a great day!