Is anything about this familiar?
She felt anxious as she parked outside their home and walked in the door, feeling a bit down. It was the last evening before an upcoming weekend alone, due to her husband’s work commitments, and she wanted to enjoy it. She’d suggested they go out to dinner, as she wanted to celebrate a couple of successes of her own, but her week had been stressful too: achievements in one area meant cutting off options in others. Want she really wanted was a bit of TLC, and she didn’t want to be alone.
Her husband was dressed smartly and ready to go. Trying not to let her mood show, she avoided eye contact and when he came close for a homecoming hug, she shook her head, not wanting his freshly sprayed aftershave to set off a hovering headache. His body language showed his annoyance and withdrawal – what had he done wrong? In a flash, her down mood turned into annoyance. They left their home together. The short car journey was silent and the arrival at the restaurant, tense. With anger simmering to the surface and both feeling wronged, neither was in the mood to apologise.
Each made efforts to lift the conversation in the restaurant, but the pull of the vortex was too strong; the anger was bubbling over. Why couldn’t the other just appreciate the stresses each was under? The storm hit as they stood waiting for a taxi to appear. He told her that from the minute she walked in, he knew that she was in a bad mood, which meant that the evening out that he was looking forward to, would be miserable, and that there was no way they’d end up being intimate after a night like that.
There it was out in the open; the fat lady had sung before she’d even entered the building!
Sound familiar? Two intelligent, well-adjusted adults, tumbling unstoppably into a vortex without warning. But wait, was it really unstoppable and was it really without warning? How far do we have to go back to stop the inexorable pull, and what tools could they have used?
I know it sounds familiar, and I often hear a similar story from clients. Two people just wanting to enjoy each others company, but both caught up in their own fears and anxieties; memories of other nights gone wrong; and put simply, bad habits in their brains.
Wait, what did you say… bad habits in their brains?
We all know that we have bad behavioral habits in our lives; a tad too much time spent on facebook; less than perfect diets or sporadic exercise; but how often do we stop and think about the bad thinking habits we have? Habitual thought processes that take us down a path before we even realise we’re got there? Maybe we get an inkling when we catch ourselves thinking “Wow, how did I get HERE again?” But by then it’s too late and we are left with the physiological arousal that has come about from our thoughts.
So maybe next time we could take 3 minutes out BEFORE we think, just to take stock of where we are.
And what about our couple, did the fat lady change her tune? Thankfully, she did.
But just think – 3 minutes before our lady got out of her car, if she’d paused and checked her thinking before she walked into the house, then maybe her evening could have taken a far different path.
Developing a mindful relationship takes time and practice and good communication – and every little helps.
There are many 3 minute breathing spaces available on the web. I like the one you can access below on youtube.