Our partners in marriage can ignite the most intense feelings in us from tenderness and passion to annoyance and even hatred at times. Being a counselor and psychotherapist, I was not immune to these feelings and in the past would often fall to their mercy. With time and some learning, I discovered that while some feelings are accurate predictors of what might be going, others can be misleading.
Here are a few tips to that I follow myself to help me navigate my feelings:
1. Beware of your mood
I have to be aware of what mood I am in as my mood will color how I will perceive a situation. If I have a bad day at work and a long commute, I might be quite irritable when I get home. It is through this irritability that I might perceive unwashed dishes or a lack of smile from my partner, and overreact to a situation by saying something snappy. But if I am aware and acknowledge to myself that I am having a tough day and need to take a breather when I get home, I can prevent many conflicts.
To know your mood ask yourself “What weather would best describe my state of mind right now?”. If on the stormy side – do a couple of things that usually soothes your mood.
2. Sleep on it
I know this one is an ancient saying, but it carries a lot of truth. Quite often our strongest emotional reactions do not reveal a full picture of what is going on. For example, I might feel enraged by my partner, but as my anger will subside I might discover that what is hiding behind it is my hurt and pain. If I just go with my initial reaction of my anger, I might raise my voice or use strong language. I might be unable to hear my partner’s responses as anger blinds our senses. But if I give my feelings some time and space, I will instead react from a position of sharing that I am hurt and give us a chance to have a more constructive dialogue about my true feelings.
To keep your intensity in check ask yourself “What provoked similar feelings of intensity in the past for me? What other feelings might be behind my anger… guilt…sadness…?”
3. Practice awareness
It takes a bit of practice to build ongoing awareness of our feelings, thoughts and body sensations. So much of the time we are on auto pilot, not aware of what is really going with us until very strong emotions arise. With this lack of awareness, I used to miss out on a lot of cues that my body and mind were giving in the shape of feelings and sensations. As I started to tune in more and more, I realized that tension in my shoulders usually signified stress and came on with mild anxiety. Instead of waiting for things to build up now, I could now examine and respond to my feelings on the spot, either addressing what needed to be addressed with my partner or soothing myself.
To build your awareness practice asking yourself these 3 questions before every meal “What am I sensing in my body (e.g. any aches, tension or pulling)? What am I feeling right now (e.g. sad, angry, lonely)? And what am I thinking about right now (observe your thoughts)?
With regular practice, these three tools have helped me to shift my relationship dynamic from conflict to conversation. Take a step towards a more peaceful relationship in your life today by giving these tools a try!!