I’ve been watching couples’ dynamics since I was four years old. I noticed my parents and other relatives and how they interacted. My parents fought when they disagreed. They would defend their own position and make the other person feel like they were wrong. Nothing got resolved. They would fight, then avoid each other for days until they cooled off. I truly don’t remember witnessing a conversation in which they would hear each other’s point of view, find understanding, and create a solution. Maybe they did it behind closed doors. I know their style helped shape me, my marriage to Jim Sharon, and my career.
Now as a couples counselor and coach, I facilitate conversations that lead to listening, compassion, and empowering approaches that uplift both people.
I warn us to beware of the “wrong button”. It is the trigger that brings most couples to my office. Being “wrong” is a source of shame that many bring from their childhood. I witness the most heartache, struggles, and disconnection when the button is pushed. Being afraid of the button being pushed creates a defensive way of life, in which true intimacy is rare.
You know that button—the one that sets your nerves on edge. What do you notice when you feel judged as wrong? Do you attack first, curl up defensively, close your heart or act hard and cruel?
Do you build a case against your partner and have lots of evidence of his/her wrongdoings? Do you persist in telling friends and family about what your beloved has done wrong? Do you feel stuck in this paradigm of defending yourself, attacking, withdrawing, feeling helpless and lost?
Pointing fingers and blaming each other is a collusion to activate the wrong button and not resolve the issue or heal the wound. It is a primitive defense to try to be safe. Not functional at all.
Trying to prove the other person is at fault brings about power struggles that no one wins. I have witnessed more couples break up or threaten to end their relationship over power struggles. They regularly, unconsciously demean each other and accuse each other of being wrong. Exhausting, right?
Here are some suggestions:
When you sense the button has been pushed, stop yourself. Step back. I encourage you to be aware of your body reactions, tone of voice, words, energy level, posturing, behaviors, breath. Scan your body and see where the tension or pain is. Own your reactions and behaviors.
The “wrong” button was installed when you were little. Can you remember being told this when you were a child? Let memories surface. Feel the feelings that hurt then and now. This can lead you to heal. A counselor or coach can help you move through these debilitating patterns and free your energy. This freedom from the past can help you create a healthier relationship.
Tell the truth that the “wrong button” has been activated. Tell your partner you need some time to collect your thoughts and feelings. Go off by yourself. Breathe. Try some journaling to empty out what is in the storehouse. Calm down. Be sure not to engage with your partner when you are reactive.
Take time to clarify what’s on your mind, feel what is in your heart, and see what is happening in your guts. What are you feeling? What do you want to tell your partner? What do you need? Try practicing what you want to say. Prepare your main points to convey. Be brave and bold. Speak your truth!
Being intimate with your beloved by being honest, vulnerable, and willing to heal brings you closer. Call a moratorium on being “wrong.” Be safe for each other. Help each other heal from past shame and hurt. Listen, understand, and hold each other.
Let me know how I can be of service to you and your partner. Call for a free consultation!
Toward deactivating your “wrong button,”
Coach for Soulful Couples
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Ruth Sharon is a relationship coach, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). Her passion is facilitating couples to enhance the vitality of their relationship and make healthy lifestyle choices. Ruth shares her wisdom, compassion and humor with individuals, couples, families, and groups. Ruth and her husband, who have been married since 1970, co-authored Secrets of a Soulful Marriage: Creating and Sustaining a Loving, Sacred Relationship, SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2014. They are delighted to offer coaching for couples and singles, in person and virtually, as well as transformative couples’ retreats, seminars and online courses.