For instance, take this couple who came to our office for counselling:
He wanted more physical intimacy - he complained that their intimate life had significantly diminished since they were first married.
She complained that all he wanted was to get her in bed - she felt like an object, and that he no longer did all the little, romantic things he used to.
Together, they were caught in a turbulent cycle of finger-pointing and frustration. Each of them felt wronged, and both of them felt stuck. No matter how much they argued, the problem wasn't going away. Just the opposite - by the time they came to us, there was seemingly no intimacy between them whatsoever.
Uncovering Your Unconscious Patterns
The example above is just one of the many ways couples get into long-standing fights. It could be about anything: money, chores, parenting, in-laws, or how people squeeze a tube of toothpaste.
Either way, we've found that if you keep experiencing the same argument with your partner, you're in a pattern that has nothing to do with them.
Instead, your partner and the situation are merely acting as triggers for an underlying - often longstanding - issue. And the argument will repeat until the issue is addressed.
Make sure to stop and take that in - because this insight has the power to completely transform your relationship with not just your partner, but anyone else you communicate with.
It could be an issue with your mother - you're annoyed that she keeps telling you how to run your house.
Or your colleague - maybe you think they're always trying to steal the limelight from you.
If you have ongoing arguments with your kids (and we bet you do!), these too are gateways to underlying patterns you have the power to shift.
And it only takes one word to do it.
Inquiring Minds Want to Know... And They Get Solutions!
The one word you can use to shift any long-standing argument is this:
It might seem inconsequential, and too simple a word to end long-standing issues.
But taking a moment to pause in the heat of an argument and shifting into a state of wonder is the catalyst for toppling a pattern.
Here's how to do it:
Hmmm... how could I have contributed to this conflict?
While it may seem like there's always a "bad guy" in a fight, in a relationship you're usually looking at a dynamic.
In the case of the husband and wife we mentioned above, he had to admit that he had indeed stopped making an effort to pay attention to his wife in the little ways he had done before, but she also realized that when he did try to please her, she would express disappointment rather than appreciation.
Hmmm... has this happened before?
Here, you're looking to uncover any unconscious patterns that may have led to the current situation. You're trying to find anything that might feel familiar in your past.
With our distant couple, the husband sadly remembered that he had often felt unloved as a child, and so he unwittingly put a stopper on the amount of love he could now receive from his wife. As for her part, she harbored a fear of intimacy that actually erected a wall to keep her husband at a safe distance.
Hmmm... what can I do to create a solution here?
Often, fighting becomes a hard habit to break. We spin our wheels without actually reaching for a solution.
So, the "hmmm" here is to shift from blaming to creating - taking the energy wrapped up in ceasely finger-pointing... and using it to come up with possible ways to solve the problem.
Try “hmmm” the next time you’re upset with your partner. Snapping out of long-standing patterns requires practice and dedication, but we've seen it happen time and again - in both our own relationship, and those of the many couples we've counseled.
When you subscribe to Katie and Gay's free relationship e-newsletter, Hearts In Harmony, you’ll be able to pinpoint the underlying triggers that are causing you to repeat negative patterns in your relationships, and you’ll learn effective ways to communicate even the most difficult feelings with your partner. You’ll finally be able to enjoy a deeply connected, blissful relationship in which you both feel loved, appreciated, and heard.
Photo cred: Wayan Yadnya