Video 1 – Relationships Are Hard, But Why

  • Everyone knows that relationships are difficult. Why?
  • It's not because of money, sex, kids, work, who picks up the socks, we're not right for each other or that we don't have enough in common.
  • There's nothing more difficult on the planet than another person. Jobs are easier than an intimate relationship.
  • We're all difficult and we come to relationships wanting easy. Unfortunately, we come to relationships with all kinds of unresolved stuff from previous relationships (including parents, siblings and everyone else with dealt with on a regular basis).
  • The "smart" part of our brain, the neocortex, provides us with "ambassadors" which are smart, slow and expensive to run. They are good at things like planning and deliberating, but also "just make stuff up" particularly under pressure.
  • The rest of our brain, the subcortical areas, provides our "primitives" which are automatic, fast and cheap to run. They work from procedural or "body" memory by pattern matching.
  • The primitives are all about "threat" detection. They respond to faces, voices, gestures, movements and "dangerous" words and phrases. This is the core of the fight or flight system.
  • Because of primitives, 99% of your day is automatic. You ambassadors simply couldn't keep up and are too expensive to do everything. (When you use your ambassadors a lot, you'll find that you get tired and stressed out rather quickly.)
  • The automating process happened when you learned to ride a bike. It also happens in relationships. Your first big mistakes and fights likely happen after you've automated your interactions to some extent. You've stopped paying complete attention and being fully present. (When you automate something, you tend to fill in the gaps with previous experiences and expectations.)
  • With automation you wind up including everyone and everything of emotional importance in your life in a "lens" or "filter" to view other people and circumstances through. (It's your pattern matching system.) Making mistakes becomes inevitable.
  • Fighting in and of itself is inevitable. The problem isn't fighting. It's whether or not one or both of you threaten to leave the relationship. Relationships can't survive a chronic loss of safety and security.
  • Communication, memory and perception are all error prone. When things are going well, the mistakes don't matter very much. When they aren't going well, they matter a lot.
  • Stress makes communication worse.
  • Memory is unreliable. You don't remember as accurately as you think you do and neither does the other person. "Who's right" is a pointless argument (and is absolutely unwinnable).
  • Perceptions are like fun house mirrors. They are altered or distorted by our state of mind and memories. They play subtle tricks on you.
  • Big "T" threats vs. little "t" threats: The everyday stuff that stresses us and keeps us on edge or alert to some degree leads to fighting. If big "T" threats or abuse are a feature of your relationship, you need to get out.
  • Real time is too fast for our ambassadors. We start running on primitives and our ambassadors don't know why we are where we are. Our ambassadors will sometimes weigh in though with stuff that sounds very convincing (to us) about why we're right.
  • How to do better: When things get tense, sit face to face and eye to eye (in a non-threatening way). Sitting side by side and glancing at each other is threatening (at a biological level). Talking by phone and texting can also have problems with misinterpreting the emotional tone of the communication.
  • We need our eyes to regulate each other's nervous system (it's part of our threat detection system).
  • There are no angels or devils. We are all fully capable of huge mistakes in communication because of memory and perception based problems.
  • We need to focus on protecting each other from problems "out there." We need to be in the foxhole together and have each other's backs. The big job is to overcome entitlement (expectations and "shoulds") and being right to create safety and security for each other.

Video 2 – Anger Management for Relationships

Anger and conflict are natural. Disagreement and conflict lead to anger. We can deal with it by:

1. Memory isn't perfect.

You're both wrong at least in part. The Challenger memory study showed that people will even argue over their own handwritten accounts from days after the event.

Your memory isn't like a video. It's "rebuilt" every time you retrieve it and it's distorted or embellished just a little each time by the way you remember it and talk about in that moment, so it slowly changes over time. (This has been studied in detail, too.)

2. Don't take it personally!

It's what's going on inside them. They're stressed out. Something is driving what is being said and done that is not you. "People can't say something that's not already inside them." ("Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Matthew 12:34b)

3. Let go of the need to be right!

Jockeying for position is just an attempt to be valued, but it's not worth it because you waste your life and don't achieve anything of value. It just makes you both unhappy.

"We don't remember what we fought about 20 years ago." (But we do remember the general experience of being repeatedly hurt.)

4. Be mindful of what's going on inside you!

Are you hungry, tired or stressed out? Avoid the fight. Make things less tense or serious by recognizing the extra ingredient driving it almost invisibly. This can also make it less personal. It lets us "fix this together."

4. Ask for what you want!

Mind reading doesn't work. You can't expect your partner to know what you want, even if they do sometimes. You need to be assertive and ask, not aggressive and demand, bully or play games.

Video 3 – Relationship Help Letting Go

  • Use a technique that's simple but takes practice to do well or do consistently.
  • I can be "attached" to my ideas or set my ideas aside and view them as "just some ideas."
  • If we remember some of our old "not so good" ideas, we can become more willing to consider being wrong to at least some degree now.
  • In the process, we can become more willing to "discuss" rather than "defend" our ideas.
  • This is related to being "fused" with our feelings. When we are "defused" we have room to think "separated" from our feelings. Our feelings then no longer drive our thinking as strongly. We are less prone to reacting and are more capable of responding instead.

Questions for Journaling

  • What are the top 3 things you and your partner fight about the most?
  • How do your fights start? Are they good conversations gone bad or are they bad right from the start?
  • Thinking of a recent or truly memorable fight, what did your partner want you to understand or accept? (It may not have been actually or fully said out loud.)
  • What’s one idea or principle we’ve discussed that you’d like to practice this week to make things better in your relationships?

Verses for the Week

Ephesians 4:26
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.

James 1:19
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry...

Proverbs 29:11
Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.

Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:18
A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.

Proverbs 22:24
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person. Do not associate with someone easily angered.

Psalm 37:8
Refrain from anger, turn from wrath and don't worry…

Proverbs 14:29
Whoever is patient has great understanding, but someone who is quick-tempered shows foolishness.

Prayer for the Week

Thank you for helping me overcome my anger. Help me catch myself before I do more damage to myself and others. Help me see the hurt and pain in others and treat, so I can treat them more like I'd want to be treated. Help me become a peacemaker and a shame breaker. Amen.