“I’m sick and tired of you trying to control me,” The hubby snapped soon after he cannonballed into my chair-ouch…my chair!
“He/she/they have no idea…none,
about how I’ve got this!”
I took my seat too…and mused…
and let the lines they surely rehearsed often wind down to their final acts/final scenes.
She retorted back, “And YOU…if YOU were an adult and not such a spoiled child …I wouldn’t need to!?” (She ended her flurry with perfect her whites showing (gleaming ‘Crest White Strips’ in use) with her red lip-glossed lower lip curled in, with a total look of angst, void of oxytocin in flowing in her brain … a glamour look just like the movies!)
I’ve been on the front row of this kind of drama too many times before. If they let me direct (and they will) I know how the show will end.
They don’t know it yet, but they’re about to get recast in starring roles. As re-passionate lovers playing their ‘real-life’ selves. With new lines, new cues, new plots, and new stories to write and star in.
Their mystery drama (that they’re convinced has one scene, one plot, one ending…same lines of dark comedy on repeat, that if you don’t laugh a little you’ll cry a lot) is about to be transformed into a blockbuster chick flick … that every guy will love too!
I was with one of my interns recently, and he said to me, “Do you ever have couples come into your office, with their swords drawn? And do you know if you don’t jump in, it’s going to be a bloodbath for someone?”
I smiled and nodded emphatically.
He continued, “When that starts…I freeze! I feel like there’s nothing I can do but referee and I want to do so much more!”
Then he looked at me and asked sheepishly, “Do you ever feel like you just want to do something else with your life, other than be a referee? I mean, at least if you were a real referee…you could get some of your ‘daily steps’ in!”
I chuckled because I knew exactly what he meant.
I’d felt the same way early in my practice.
But I could tell he was surprised at my response.
“Absolutely I have! But now, those moments actually … well, they excite me. I think to myself, ‘GAME ON!’ Because I know I can intervene with three small truths that can bring harmony.”
He had that startled deer in headlight look. His head/neck protruding out from his shoulders quickly asking in a bewildered – before I forget it manner, “Then please do share! Somehow when couples leave, I might have refereed the fight to some sort of temporary solution, but I feel pretty beat up and wonder if a margarita might help!?”
I further explained that there’s a ‘Champion-self’ deep down inside in all of us. (Usually buried beneath trauma, shame, and disempowering beliefs). And that part of us ‘really wants’ to harmonize with others. Others, who more than likely, have a ‘Champion’ buried inside them too.
But all too often, what was installed on our hard drives (by parents, teachers, coaches, etc.) by the time we were 6 or 7 years old…has no clue how to freely harmonize.
Whether they’re musically/soulfully gifted or not, Champions spend the time and energy needed to harmonize their hearts and their souls to first serve. Champions know, that is key to living and finding their abundant life. Then it comes very naturally.
When my daughter was very young, she’d sit in my lap at church and I would sing harmony in her ear, so that harmonies would come naturally to her. They did, and she’s a great singer now.
I would talk to her about harmony. And how harmony can make the other singer sound GREAT! I would share how we should all live that way, so we could help others live great lives and have great hopes.
I continually shared this great truth with her… “Live in harmony with one another.”
One day she was with me in my graduate school office. It was more like a break room with a dozen desks where those of us working on our doctoral degrees, who were teaching undergrad classes, could land.
An argument (more like a friendly debate) broke out about how our comprehensive exams were scheduled. My daughter, who was coloring on the other side of my desk came around and whispered, “Sing harmony mom!”
It was a priceless moment! I’ll never forget it. When there’s strife or stress around me, I remember her sweet little voice and I remind myself to “sing harmony!” It was the beginning of me sharing about harmonizing with couples!
I shared with my intern (and used the same principles with my couple) what I’d love to share with you this week. My couple called them the ‘Harmonizing Hope Healers’…I like that!
1. Champions know: “It’s not all about me!”
You CANNOT harmonize when it’s all about you.
Remember this? CBC Sports September 6, 2000 …
After Tiger Woods won the US Open, he surprised his former college roommate Jerry Chang. After winning the U.S. Open by 15 shots which he made look easy, Tiger didn’t fare as well toting a bag. Woods served as the surprise caddie (after his historic US Open win) for his former college roommate at Stanford, trying to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Public Links. But having the world’s greatest golfer on the bag didn’t work for Chang. He missed one of the two qualifying spots after a two-round total of 1-under 143. Woods looked the part. Tiger wore shorts, a golf shirt, sunglasses, and no hat. Woods’ appearance was a complete surprise. He didn’t show up until after Chang teed off at the first hole. Then carried his bag in 90-degree heat around the Black Mountain course. “We looked up around 6 a.m. and the word was out; Tiger was on the golf course,” Black Mountain general manager Jim Stanfill said. “Nobody believed it until we saw it. I WAS THRILLED!”
“The greatest become the servants to all,” said Jesus.
I asked the couple in my office to press pause for a moment after their initial eruption. It took them a moment to lay down their arms. I saw that they were stuck in a power struggle of protecting themselves by assaulting one another with words, that I’m sure, felt more like swords than words.
We all have those moments; we’ve all done it.
But is it healthy? Absolutely not. Can we harmonize? YES! But first, you must intervene in the “me, me, me” loop in your heart and brain.
I interrupted their “moment” by looking at the husband and asking him, “What did your wife do this year to make the holidays special?”
He looked at me like I’d been smoking something.
I waited. I could see he was struggling with whether he wanted to continue the assault or answer my question. I’ve learned when my expression remains kind and I maintain eye contact, most often they’ll answer the question. They eventually realize I don’t fold.
“Well, she decorates the house and makes it really festive. She keeps holiday music on, and the house smells like sugar cookies, pumpkin pie, and chocolate fudge all season long!” And patting his tummy he added, “And it’s sooooo good!”
Then he looked at me ‘bumfuzzled’ and asked directly, “What does this have to do with anything? The holidays are months behind us!”
I smiled. Before answering his question, I turned to his wife and asked her, “What was your husband’s greatest contribution to the holiday cheer?”
With equal confusion, she started about three ‘uh’ kind of sentences.
“I am not sure…”
And then it finally came to her.
“OH,” she exclaimed!!! “On the night we were planning to go caroling with the kids, it had started raining. He went out back and got the huge umbrella that we use for shade in the summer. Then he held it over all of us as we went door-to-door, singing carols, and delivering cookies.”
The silence in the room was stunning compared to the earlier sniping.
After a moment of silence, I began.
“We all suffer from the ‘what about me’ disease. We get consumed with ourselves, and our experience, and we get stuck in that loop! … He did this, she did that. It’s always this way. It’s always that way,” they both nodded.
I learned early in my practice, that:
- IF we can just interrupt the loop of blaming, hurt, attack (hoping for a good result) to disappointment…then back to blaming
- IF we can step out of ourselves just for a moment…lay down our sword, step out of our armor
- IF we can notice something good about the other
- THEN we can harmonize.
- THEN we can have a conversation that brings progress and hope.
You can use the same formula to harmonize in your relationships!
When we get hurt or get angry or get disappointed, if we speak from that place, it’s more likely to bring chaos.
Many people think this takes years of practice and it’s so very hard.
When the truth is, it’s a pretty simple process.
When you get out of harmony, with hurt, anger, or disappointment:
- Simply press pause.
- Set what we’re hurt or angry or disappointed about aside just for a few moments.
- Take off the armor.
- Lay down the sword.
- Notice good in the other.
- Perhaps something you’re grateful for.
- Invite the other to an “us” stance. (Take hands, smile, etc.)
- Now you’re ready to harmonize about the hurt, anger, disappointment, etc.
When you’re locked in your armor of me/my/mine and your verbal-sword is drawn, it’s ALL about you.
In healthy relationships it’s not all about you, or all about me. It’s about ‘us’! We cannot harmonize by ourselves. It takes two.
I then had the couple each make three statements about what was great about “us.”
- When we do a project together, no one is better than “us.”
- When we light the fire, no one is better than “us.”
- When we entertain in our home, no one is better than “us.”
- When one of us attends an event without the other, they miss “us.”
- People want to be like “us” (when we’re in a good place).
- “Us ’ness’ soothes my soul!
From that place, we could quickly walk through the issue that had taken them to two other therapists, before they landed in my office. Why? Because I took a moment to help them harmonize.
Since he had begun the battle, I asked him if he’d be willing to remember the great holiday she inspired, to think about the great things she’d just said about “us” and then begin the conversation differently.
With a little help, he came up with this.
“Hey, I know that I’ve been difficult in so many ways. I have a real difficult time when I feel controlled. And that’s not about you, it’s about how awful I felt when my mother controlled me. Can you help me with this issue?”
We had a healing conversation with amazing results.
It’s not rocket science. It’s about realizing that it’s not all about you. And inviting your partner to help you find solutions.
How can you step out of your armor?
Lay down your sword?
Focus on “us”?
Get in harmony?
Find a solution?
2. Champions are careful to contribute more than they criticize.
Brene Brown says that she hopes at the end of the day, the end of the week, all the way to the end of her life, that she’ll have contributed more than she criticized.
(Note…I’m willing to bet that none of you reading this, would ever dream of using the kind of demeaning/shaming words towards your co-workers or friends, that you so freely spew inside your home. And I’m more than certain, you’d never speak to your dog like that. Our backyard is the #3 tee box for our country club. One day, working in our flowers, I could hear a dad rail shame at his probably10- or 12-year-old son who was getting ready to tee-off, how lame his playing was. I almost yelled, “Do you talk to the people you work for and with-like that?! Do you allow your employees to talk that way to you?!” NO! H*LL NO! Can’t we lift our game at home to at least what we expect for work conversations? Or family dog talk banter? We are careful to do it all day long in the workplace and on long walks with our dogs…why not at home?! Soft careful answers turn off anger.)
No one has the time to sit around and keep score on how many things your partner has said to you that contribute to your growth, inspiration, to helping you become the best version of you. And how many things your partner has said that have been critical or torn you down.
But you don’t need to count…your heart keeps the score. And the condition of your heart is real and it’s visible.
In a session of coach training, I said to the coaches, who were seeking certification in relationship coaching, “I can go into a restaurant and show you the couples where there has been greater ‘contribution’, than criticism.”
Those on their cell phones, those who are staring off in space, those who are absorbed in sports on the screen…are the ones who have greater criticism than contribution dynamic in their relationships.
How can I know that?
I could just stop and say, “Because I’ve heard it in the lost angry tones of thousands of hours counselling?”
But what I’ve come to KNOW is, when there’s more contribution, than criticism, everyone’s greatest desire is to connect and stay connected to the person who’s giving it/living it. It’s JUST that simple!
Those who are engaged, having conversation, leaning into one another, making eye contact…are the ones who have greater contributions than criticisms in their relationships.
As I was explaining this to my couple in another session, the wife spoke up and said, “Oh, my God! That’s us. He makes sure he sits where he can see sports on the screen, and I normally resort to my cell phone.”
I asked them to make a conscious effort over the following week to contribute more than they criticize.
And then toward the end of the week before they came back, I asked them to go to dinner and see if it was any different.
When they returned the husband said, “That was a great thing you asked us to do! It taught me a new skill…I learned how to program the DVR!”
I had to laugh because you would’ve thought, as he shared in a boyishly proud manner, he’d found the holy grail!
She added, “Normally when we’re being seated, he’s negotiating with the hostess. Making sure his view of the screen is unobstructed. This time he just walked in and let her seat us. No coaching. No negotiations. Then when we arrived at our table, I saw him checking the view. But to my surprise, he chose the seat with his back was to the screen. I thought: ‘Thank you Jesus’!”
I laughed as she continued, “I wanted to invite the whole restaurant, bar and all to stand and join me in the Hallelujah Chorus!”
I hope you’ll adopt the secret that Champions, like Dr. Brené Brown, use to stay in harmony. Her mantra: “Contribute more than you criticize”.
In your relationships,
with your children,
with your coworkers,
with your neighbors.
That creates a life…a being of perfect harmony!
It’s what we do on the road less traveled. And since we do, we find awesome leagues/teams/gatherings of Champions that practice it too.
It’s a great way to live and makes our relationships sweeter and richer!
Kind words are like honey. Sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Kind and careful words can heal the heart and the mind. An Ancient Proverb
3. Champions look for opportunities to direct their relationship by meeting the other’s needs and planting seeds in fertile ground.
Not nearly enough is shared about making sure our partners needs are met.
But let’s back up from there. Most people don’t even know what their own needs are, much less, what their partners need.
(Note…Deep inside you want to always do good, act careful, be kind, act sensitive. But life happened and having kids changed everything. But the truth? You’re just plain tired…I mean that-literally. BUT…now that you really know each other … it’s time that you really know each other.)
Therefore, we are seeing an epidemic of couples who are sharing homes, checking accounts and kids, but going elsewhere to get their needs met.
Not only is that sad, but the sweet harmonies of life are missing!
I have a whole blog about this but let me give you a very quick way to know your own needs, and to know your partner’s needs.
With my couple, I went through the seven basic needs:
- Security/safety (Feeling safe physically, financially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Knowing my dreams and my flaws are safe and cared about).
- Significance/importance (Knowing you matter, and that you have a place in this world. Seeing and embracing your uniqueness).
- Surprise/adventure (Having variety in your life. Having some sense of spontaneity).
- Support/connection/love (Feeling connected, cared about, and cherished for who you are).
Needs to thrive:
- Spiritual growth (The act of accepting that you have a life spark that was given to you, and practicing the purposeful act of shining that life spark onto others in a way that inspires them to light up the darkness of others. Creating a cascade of light with your one small spark).
- Self-awareness/personal growth (The act of seeking to become all you were created to be, the very best version of you).
- Sharing/contribution/making a difference (Leaving a legacy every day by touching the lives of others in some way).
(Note…Stephen Covey wrote an international best seller titled, 7 Habits Of Highly Successful People. I’m reminded of one his principles as I encourage building strong relationships in our marriages. Maybe it’ll resonate as a truth you can use too. Dr. Covey wrote: “Win/Win is really the only viable alternative; anything less than Win/Win in an interdependent reality is a poor second best that will have impact in the long-term relationship.”)
Then I had them each prioritize their top 3 survival needs in order of importance. (We all have these needs. Their priority, and what we need to get them met, is what makes us unique).
Following that, I had them identify at least 2 things that could meet each of those 7 needs.
Then share them with one another.
Yes, it’s an exercise that takes time. But I know it’s worth it and a key element of harmonizing.
Why? Because …
PAY ATTENTION TO THIS!
IT IS CRITICAL!
If our needs are left unmet…we are all at risk of:
- Giving up our goals
- Sacrificing our dreams
- Violating our values
We must get our needs met. Our spouse or partner is NOT 100% responsible for meeting our needs.
Our responsibility is to get them met and get them met in healthy ways.
But…it also gives the relationships a beautiful chance to harmonize when we share our needs, and when our partner meets as many as they possibly can.
When I share with people about meeting their partner’s needs, they somehow think it’s going to be a full-time job of unrealistic demands.
That’s rarely the case. (Remember…if you’re willing do and say the little things with co-workers, business associates, good friends … things that’ll make them healthy, peaceful, and thriving… Just remember it takes the same stuff in your relationships. Especially because with them, you know all the buttons to push, the bags that need to be checked. Just like with co-workers, friends, or business partners…you just do it…and shut the heck up on whining about it!)
Here’s a sample of what the wife I was working with shared with her husband:
Need: How you could meet it:
Love Text me what I mean to you for no reason.
Dance with me in the kitchen
Security/Safety Hold me when I cry
Listen to my dreams and encourage me
Here’s a sample of what the husband shared with the wife:
Need: How you could meet it:
Significance Tell me what makes you proud about me
Acknowledge my hard work
Surprise/Adventure Go fishing with me sometimes
Wake me up at 2 AM for pancakes at IHOP
I gave them an assignment to check in every few days and how they’re doing at meeting needs. And in response, to gush with gratitude for those they have had met and softly suggest how they could do even more.
They came back connected in a powerful way.
All over just meeting the other’s needs in a small way.
The harmony was written all over both of their faces!
What about you?
Do you know your needs?
Have you shared them with your partner?
Along with how they can meet them?
And asked what theirs are?
And how you can meet theirs?
Trust me, it’s worth the time and effort it takes!
These are such simple things that can transform a relationship.
It works not only in marriage,
but with your children,
your adult children,
and even in professional relationships.
It’s almost impossible to snuggle up to someone incased steel armor.
Take it off. (Remember how nice you are to your co-worker.)
It’s hard to have healthy conversation with someone wielding a sword.
Put it down. (Pretend it’s your boss or your prized employee.)
It’s hard to heal a relationship,
where there’s more criticism than contribution.
Contribute more. (It’s JUST DO IT time.)
It’s hard to meet the needs of others, when you don’t even know what they are. Ask. Become a ‘one-flesh’ team again!
“Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie declared, ‘It marks a big step in your development when you come to realize that other people can help you do a better job than you could do alone.’ To do something really big, let go of your ego, and get ready to be part of a team.”
John C. Maxwell
I say again…no rocket science required here.
But an easy formula that makes a major difference.
Don’t wait for your partner to start.
And let’s see major things begin to unfold!
It’s a song that sings beautifully…
resonating ‘harmoniously’ from your relationship!
And the greatest thing about it?
Others will notice and want to join in!