There is one question that disarms couples at a moment of battle.
John and Susan zoom into me on video chat in South Carolina. John’s a high-level executive using a steel firm. And while he spends a whole lot of time on the job, he is aging and well aware that his home life beckons, meaning in the upcoming few years, he will have more time at home with his partner.
I have been working with John for a little bit and enjoy this moment, occasionally, I will invite a customer’s partner on the call. We talk further about the job we have been doing and I get a glimpse into the other side of the relationship.
In this example, John has been feeling as though he can’t make Susan happy. Whatever he does it does not appear to be enough.
She’s been very candid with him about how she believes he has checked out in their connection.
Plus it comes out a moment later, when she says to him,”It is not me that is the issue, it is you. You did not show up Tuesday, did you?” They had a dinner date in the home.
He sighs, pulls away, a few inches from her, while still staying in the display view. I can tell he is getting mad, feels almost embarrassed to be outed by his wife, particularly in front of me. Maybe this was not such a fantastic idea, I imagine him thinking.
“I called. You knew I had a significant last-minute meeting that night. I would’ve been there when I could have.”
“Always do the job, always work, God forbid you can tell them you have a meeting in your home that you can’t skip. God forbid…”
“I do not beg na do this anymore,” he barks.
“It means I do not wish to fight you.”
“I am not fighting with you, I am merely stating the truth,” she says
My instinct would be to separate these two fighting cats. And yet I allow it to play out a little bit.
Listen, I do not want struggle like this, particularly in front of Stuart,” John says.
“Well, he wants to see what is happening between us, behind closed doors, is not that right?” Susan looks at me for validation.
A moment passes, then another.
It is quite embarrassing, painful, but a reality. They’re in a dynamic countless couples act out daily.
“Okay, timeout. Can you take a deep breath?” I say.
This kind of interaction?”
I have them turn towards one another gently, look into each other’s eyes. This also is truth. They do it reluctantly
As they do, I know what I will say. With strong statements and questions, I will break through their own bubble.
“Both of you, right now while looking at each other, I would like you to ask yourself right here right now, think about this question I am going to ask you. It is a question that I think will determine your future.”
I pause, permit the effect of what I have said to land.
“What do you like? To be right, to win the debate or to be connected and loved?”
Their faces are stone-cold, no saying. They look away from one another, then back again.
“F*#k, this is so hard,” Susan says. “… and so crucial. Thank you. I have been a royal bitch, have not I?”
And no need to be that person to yourself,” I say. “So take a breath and see if there’s a space where you are able to forego self-judgment, Susan. You are just as hard on him as you’re on yourself. Light tears roll out from her eyes.
“Be in connection with yourself for a minute, Susan. That’s where the true gift lives. Find your way back to yourself. And then when you are ready, bring it back to John. Get relational, not righteous. You know he’s trying, he is trying hard. Take it, nourish what he gives you, and if you are ready, see him”
I know John is trying. He has shown that in our weekly coaching calls.
She looks up at him teary-eyed, starting to link, rather than clinging tightly to being correct. She drops her sword and shield. This is so tough to do. And she does it. It is her work. She’s heroic at this moment.
They reconvene, with their eyes, beyond logic. Admitting themselves back to the soul of the relationship — being relational, loving rather than right.
This is a traditional switch from our logical fact-hungry left mind to our emotive intuitive right brain. You may think of the left brain as the fighter, the right brain as the lover. We are a lot more relational in our right brain.
And to get there, in the heat of battle, just ask this one question — Do I need to be right or do I would like to be loved? And ask it of your spouse.
When taken into your heart, it immediately breaks through one’s defenses and helps both partners to get off the battle and back to each other’s graces.
John and Susan saw that. And they continued to use that very simple question for a long time to come.
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Previously Released on stuartmotola.com