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Who Started The Fight?

This is one of the big issues most couples have struggled with at some point in their relationship: who pulled the trigger on a toxic event – who was really responsible for the mess?

It usually goes something like this:

“If you hadn’t said ______________________ I wouldn’t have been so ____________________!”

“Well, if you hadn’t been so ________________ I wouldn’t have said ______________________!”

And round and round it goes. A circle of blame and justification for bad behaviors. Both partners not feeling understood around their respective grievances, because the context felt so critical to the sequence.

If you’ve ever been in one of these go-arounds, (and chances are, you have been, more often than you’d like to admit), then you know too keenly that this kind of exchange only contributes to raising blood pressure and your dog, who’s been witnessing it, getting more weirded out by the minute. (That’s another post: “Want the truth? Then watch the dog!”)

I’ve worked with couples who escalated so intensely around this kind of exchange that they fought for hours about this Who Started It All nonsense, then punished each other for days or weeks afterward!

So, what’s a more productive line of questioning to pursue around a fight? – one which might actually move the two of you toward some healthy ownership, some forgiveness, repair, resolution and some learning?

It’s a few simple questions to ask yourself:

“Where was in that fight?”

“What were my contributions to that problem?”

“What do I regret about my own behavior in that situation?”

“What could have done differently, even though I felt provoked?”

(My often blamed) but wise husband says: “In other words, take a look at yourself,  because that’s the only thing you can actually change!”                                                  

Covid Silver Lining

I recently met with a couple I’ve been working with for quite some time. We hadn’t met in over a month due to a number of unforeseen events, including the fact that they’d each contracted Covid within the same week. It was a shock to them considering that they’d both been vaccinated and had practiced diligent Covid safety behaviors for the past year, like mask wearing in all public places, no indoor dining, avoidance of large gatherings, etc.

As with so many of us, Covid had become the dreaded Boogeyman, especially for the husband who was immunocompromised. It had become the terrorizer, the ticket to an untimely death, if not only a protracted, lonely suffering in an over-crowded hospital. Covid was the provider of all losses:

  • no more eating out
  • no concerts
  • no sporting events
  • no presumed working in an office with all its social perks
  • no safe travel requiring plane trips
  • no movie theaters
  • no stress-free grocery shopping
  • no shield from other people’s sense of social responsibility or lack of it
  • no break from one’s partner or spouse, who now had to fulfill most needs for connection.
  • no more easy, safe, spontaneous visits with kids and grandkids

So what was their Covid Silver Lining?

  • They thought it fortunate to have both tested positive within a few days, so no need to quarantine from each other!
  • They coughed a lot, but weren’t seriously sick, and felt relieved and thankful for being mostly tired.
  • They were quite tired, so they felt legitimacy about their frequent need to sleep and nap!
  • They had previously stocked up on lots of supplies, so felt proud about preparedness, and relief not needing to shop! 
  • The end of Summer weather was lovely, so they convalesced outside, not requiring hospitalization!
  • They caught up on reading, email and TV without guilt!
  • They found a new patience and tenderness with each other, taking turns with nursing roles!
  • They had time to talk about small, private things without the pressure of work or interacting with the outside world!
  • They enjoyed “paid leave,” and discovered a new appreciation for their jobs.
  • They spent a lot of lazy time in their yard, realizing how blessed they were to live in such a beautiful place.
  • They spent 18 to 20 days together, getting a taste of “retirement,” and could now envision it!
  • But, most of all, they no longer feared the Booogeyman Covid. They had survived. They had thrived. Together.

So, with or without testing positive, what’s your Covid Silver Lining?

“Kvetch Dates”

There’s a word in Yiddish which has no literal translation in English: “kvetch.”
It means “to complain, to moan, to bitch, to bellyache, to crab, grumble, fuss, nag, squawk, whine, gripe, etc. We all do it at times, but it can be a real problem when the kvetching hijacks your brain. It’s then likely to intrude upon any experience you may be having, either alone or with a partner.

Have you ever been with someone whose constant kvetching ruined the day? It’s not fun for either of you. My antidote? “Kvetch dates.”

In the same spirit of “worry dates,” (where you minimize the intrusive nature of worry by legitimizing and scheduling it), so goes the “kvetch date.” If you’re alone and feeling overwhelmed or irritated or sorry for yourself, the last thing you’ll want is for those feelings to take over your day. On the other hand, there may be sufficient reasons for you to feel this way, so you also don’t want to negate your own internal experience. The compromise here may be to “prescribe the symptom,” as we say, and make a date with yourself to give those feelings some limited airtime. Establish a time when you allow yourself to fully vent those feelings, either in writing or talking aloud, or sharing them with someone you trust. Set a timer, and limit yourself to an allotted time, maybe ten minutes. Then stop, and change the frequency in your brain by directing your attention to something else, something neutral or positive. If your mind returns to “kvetch mode,” remind yourself that you’ll have another “kvetch date” tomorrow, and get back to the more positive activity.                                                                                                                                                                                          By practicing this, you’ll be developing significant thought-stopping skills which will serve you well when needed.

If you’re coupled up, you can make “kvetch dates” with each other, especially at the end of a long, stressful week, or in the midst of an emotionally challenging situation. Make a pact to avoid advice giving, solutions or judgments, and to simply listen to each other. Agree on a maximum time allowed, then change the frequency by engaging in something pleasurable or neutral.            You’ll be protecting positive experiences by together getting the “kvetch” out of room.

You Gotta Laugh At it All!

It’s been a long, hard year locked up with ourselves amidst Covid 19. So many of our usual distractions and indulgences have gone by the wayside, and most of us have been starkly confined with our own neurotic shortcomings and lazy adaptations.

Millions have gained the “Quarantine 15” and as things open up, are slightly agoraphobic, clinging to the privacy of their home prisons, so people won’t see their 2020 bulge. Pants with buttons and zippers have become relics of the past. Sweatpants and leggings have become our best friends. Aerobic workouts, 5k races and strenuous strength training have become “Going for a Walk.”  Needless to say, once hardbodies are now mush. 

Makeup, once so sacred and mysterious, has also largely gone by the wayside, replaced with naked faces with all their spots, wrinkles and droops.

Close friends and family, previously such a source of vital warmth and connection, have been replaced by our loyal, adoring dogs, or worse – the prison of Zoom for EVERYTHING.

Haircuts, once such a luxury, have been replaced with either nothing, or DIY chop jobs. (Also, 85% of the world’s blondes have disappeared).

In sum, we all look like Hell…

A cultured life with theater, concerts, dancing and singing, has devolved into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram 24/7.

Travel to glorious new places has been replaced by Couch Potato Adventure: TV day and night.

Real life experiences like weddings, parties, graduations and funerals have yielded to the voyeurism of The News, (mostly bad), also day and night.

Lusty evenings of 80 proof booze in bars have been replaced with desperate solo guzzling of 4 proof spiked seltzer.

Intellectual stimulation through conversation, clubs, meetings, and trainings have all become “Zoomified”.

Smiles, with all their compelling warmth, have made way for Eyes-Only, and sometimes contraband Rogue-Nose Faces in a mandated masked world.

And alas, sport shopping at TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Macy’s have yielded to frequent gargantuan boxes arriving from Amazon, often left outside in the rain, generating massive amounts of garbage later needing to be hauled to the curb.

So, what to do with all these charming developments? Get depressed? Go on drugs? Get a shelter dog? Take up the Ukulele? Buy an RV? Get more takeout? Chop down some trees? Get some chickens? Go back on Zoom? Run to a therapist?

Whatever you do, you gotta start laughing at it all….

Tune into my next BlogTalk Radio podcast on Wednesday, 3/31 at 8:30 PM EST: “Giving Up – When It Helps and When It Hurts

In this 20 minute episode I discuss the process of losing traction and determination around commitments, why it happens, when it may be a positive thing, and when it may signal some personal or relational shortcomings.

At the time of this writing we’re all hearing about thousands of people giving up their diligence about Covid safety measures, tired of all the constraints and hassles, going back into restaurants, gyms, and planes with resignation or denial about the possibly tragic personal outcome, and the likely surge in Covid cases and deaths.

In this episode I explore how this behavior may be emblematic of other forms of getting tired and giving up, and I invite you to look at where and why you may quit things, vs. when you may be letting go in some healthy ways.

Join the conversation with questions or comments by calling into the studio at 877-497-9046. If you can’t make the live show you can stream it anytime at www.BlogtalkRadio.com/SusanLager.

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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