Life lesson number 4--since this is Valentine's month: Handle important relationships with care.
This probably seems obvious, but there's a reason for that old saying, "You always hurt the one you love." We relax into a relationship and we feel that we can "let it all hang out." Letting it all hang out is a recipe for damage and pain.
I grew up in a family that laid a foundation of some strengths that I'm grateful for, but also some counterproductive patterns that I've spent a lifetime trying to un-learn!
A book that helped me with that was Scream Free Marriage by Hal Edward Runkel. Runkel writes about 5 ways that we "scream" in relationships and I think I had a good number of them in my repertoire. I loaned my book to a friend, so I'm going by memory here, but I think they are:
- Withdrawing--the proverbial "cold shoulder"
- Shutting down--withdrawing and closing off completely--a more extreme form of withdrawal
- Using words in anger or sarcasm
- Yelling, shouting and literally screaming
- Triangles-involving third parties in conflict
Our family handled conflict with shouting and crying and slamming of doors, as well as silences that went on for days. And we were great at the geometry!
Any one of the "screaming patterns" tend to come out of our box of wonky tools when we experience anxiety about some aspect of our relationship. Understanding that anxiety is behind a lot of anger is extremely helpful. Figuring out what I am anxious about is even more so.
Runkel writes about "calming down, growing up and getting closer." He also writes about taking responsibility for your personal feelings and needs.
I have learned that while solid relationships may be resilient, they are really more like fine china than those dishes that can take the hard knocks.