I know exactly why you and your partner fight with each other. Sure, your fights might masquerade and manifest as arguments about money, the kids, the lack of sex, or who took out the garbage last, but that is not really what they are about.

At the absolute root, it’s about your protective self and your core negative image (CNI) of your partner. I will discuss CNI on Friday, so for now, I want to focus on your protective and authentic self.

You have an authentic self; the true, real you, often referred to as your inner child.  The good guy that lives his values inside you. We like this guy, but he is vulnerable and easily hurt.

He has been hurt before. Past conflicts and hurts from parents, siblings, and early relationships, have necessitated the need for constant protection from a body guard. This bodyguard is your protective self.

Your protective self lives the motto “Nothing is going to hurt you, not on my watch!”  Like anti-virus spyware, your protective self is constantly vigilant, on the lookout for anything that might hurt, disrespect, or threaten the authentic self.

Your partner has a protective self too. And when those two meet in the narrow alleyway of conflict, look out! You engage, argue, and fight, but it’s your protective selves that are battling, not the authentic selves.

Like two proud gladiators, these protective selves battle for honour, ego, and the pursuit of righteousness. As the battle escalates, the authentic selves try to stay safely nestled behind, holed up in a little cave, waiting for the battle to subside before they, like frightened turtles, can surface again.

My partner is a match and I am a torch. She is fiery and can run red hot but quickly cools. I am the opposite. I take a long time to heat up, but explode and simmer for way too long. When I finally lash out at my partner, I often feel sheepish, shocked, or embarrassed at the extremes of my protective self. For example, do I really think she is an animal hater and wants to kill my dog?  Or is she just sick of cleaning up dog hair and feces?

Once you gain the awareness that your argument is simply two protective selves battling, you gain the power to disengage, step back from your ‘flooded’ state, and breathe. Go make a sandwich, take the dog for a walk, or sit on the throne. No argument has ever changed a feeling anyway.

Even if you disagree with 85% of the exaggerated, emotionally charged ‘crap’ your partner is saying, in the remaining 15%, there are some nuggets of cold hard truth.

Self awareness is the key to transforming your relationship.  By becoming more aware of your default patterns, triggers, old scripts, and reactions, you can improve your relationships in challenging times. What is triggering your protective self to jump into action?

This has NOTHING to do with your partner or changing his or her behaviour.

Here is the relationship-enhancing takeaway this week…

1. When in a challenging time, look out for your protective self. Who is really driving the ship?
2. If your protective self is driving, DON’T REACT.
3. Take a pause or a break to get ‘unflooded’.
4. Breathe, and be ready to ask your protective self to step back (you got this!)
5. Now you are able to make a better choice /response – from a centered place not reactive.

Hope this helps you play better in the sandbox of life!

On Friday, I will share insights into Terry Real’s relationship changing notion of “Core Negative Image”… you will be amazed and uneasy! And that is a promise!

Until next time…

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