Have you had those amazing days when you’re firing on all cylinders?
I did, just last week. It felt especially good because the day before I had been exhausted and dragging. You know the kind of a day when you go through the motions with nothing to give those around you. So the next day when I felt so fabulous I made a point of openheartedly greeting my husband when he came home from work.
Unbeknownst to me he was feeling crispy from another in a long string of hard days. No sooner did I welcome him home than he began to unload his fatigue, stress and frustration on me. I was stunned.
Then it got worse when he raised a touchy topic that is best discussed when we are both feeling balanced and grounded. I became defensive, angry and all stirred up. Within a matter of 90 seconds I went from the top of the world to a fury of judgment and anger.
Ah, the joys of relationship.
Have I mentioned I have a pubescent daughter with all the intermittent drama and attitude to boot? A simple request to shower or do a chore can unleash a whine and fury s#!t storm if the conditions are right. So again, I can be minding my own business feeling personally content when my lovely daughter not only rains on my parade, but seemingly wrestles me into her personal rainstorm.
I don’t suppose this kind of thing ever happens in your life.
That’s what I thought.
I love my husband and daughter like mad but there are days monastic life looks downright appealing. I’d like to see His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) after a few weeks with a partner and kids!
While maintaining a sense of peace and well-being is challenging enough on our own it gets infinitely more complicated when you’re intimately connected to others. Living your truth and negotiating personal ups and downs requires master skills when you throw in the drama and upheaval of your loved ones. It’s like walking on a tight rope that’s linked to other tight ropes being walked by those you love. They lose their balance or fall and it can shake your foundation having you do the work to keep your own balance.
As the hub of the wheel in our families and communities we women absorb a lot of those emotional upheavals.
Now I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know but let’s talk about what you can do to protect your personal joy, peace and psychic space. Because you and your well-being are worth protecting. Period.
So what can we do to maintain our peace of mind if we can’t control others? Which we can’t, even though we all try from time to time.
Your power lies in your ability to choose how you respond and meet their behavior.
When you’re sideswiped by someone else’s meltdown or drama you can choose to remain on the sideline as an observer even if they actively invite you in. Here’s where the master’s skills are required. We all know it’s easy to react and jump right in to meet their drama. And we know what a painful mess that creates.
But we can show up differently and learn to skillfully side-step the invitations to engage. We can take a deep breath, pause and take a time out to collect ourselves. Sometimes we can even be a resource to help the other take a needed time out.
Here is how I handled it with my husband in a way that works for me.
1. I recognized how stressed and depleted he was and that it was not really about me.
2. I set a limit when things began to escalate with the “touchy topic” saying we needed to hold off until we were in a less reactive state.
3. I encouraged him to take a break, rest and begin to restore himself.
4. Once we disengaged and I realized I was too stirred up to return to what I had been working on earlier. I checked in and listened to my body. I needed a walk to move my frustration and anger out.
5. As I walked I attempted to shift my running judgmental thoughts by bringing myself into the present and noticing positive things in my environment.
6. I spoke with a friend about my experience and got some support, kindness, and humor. Then I could finally let go of my judgment.
7. I reconnected with my husband again after he’d gotten some rest and I was feeling more calm and optimistic.
Loving and living with others, whether they’re under the same roof or not can be messy. Learning to stay your course when loved ones are making big waves takes practice, support, humor, compassion, and forgiveness.
My biggest asset going into my encounter with my husband was that my cup was full so I had a lot of reserves to meet him. When you make your well-being a priority you create the resilience you need to meet the challenges that arise in relationships and life.
Because those challenges show up in life regularly I’ve gathered a number of potent resources in my relationship mending kit.
Some of my favorites include the recognition:
• I’m not responsible for fixing my loved one’s dilemma or painful feelings.
• I can speak up for my needs.
• I can take a time out when I need to gather myself or things begin to escalate.
• It’s not all up to me. I get to carry my part and everyone else can carry their own.
• I can make amends if I express my truth in a hurtful way.
I would love to hear what some of your favorite resources are in your kit. It’s so inspiring to hear what works for other women. Please let me know in the comments below or on Facebook what works for you.