It Takes Two to Tango (But It Only Takes One to Love)


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For most couples, conflict involves a gradual—or not so gradual—escalation of hostilities. But there is another way to dance through our love, and it contains some pretty “unexpected” steps…

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Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a mixture of several stubborn-blooded ethnicities, including Irish and German. His wife is mostly Portuguese, so her blood tends to run a little hot.
Kelly Flanagan admits, when they were first married, they had no idea what to do with all of their hardheaded energy.

In his eBook, he describes one fight that ended with a door slammed so hard it cracked right out of the plaster wall. His wife and he were experts at “negative escalation” of conflict. Most people are.

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The Dance to Divorce

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Negative escalation is a cold, clinical term describing the very hot kind of one-upmanship that happens during most conflict, both within marriage and without:

You yell—I yell louder.

You put up walls—I lay my walls with brick and mortar.

You insult—I sling back an even more painful zinger—So you insult my mother—So I insult the way you mother our children. And so on.

Each iteration of the conflict is like climbing the rungs of a ladder. Except it’s the ladder of vengeance, and when you finally reach the top and fall off you don’t bust your skull—you break a heart or two.

But here’s the really counterintuitive and disturbing fact revealed by decades of “sequential analysis” research: positive escalation is also damaging to marriages. That is, couples who engage in a quid pro quo exchange of positive behaviors also report less satisfying relationships.

When our behavior in marriage is dependent or contingent upon what has been done to us—regardless of whether that behavior is positive or negative—it results in the destruction of relationship.

In high-conflict marriages, we obliterate our love with hostility and anger. In polite marriages, we smile our way into saccharine staleness. It takes two to tango—two people executing all the expected, eye-for-an-eye steps in relationship—and we can dance ourselves all the way into divorce.

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Love is In the Unexpected
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It takes two to tango. But the the good news is, it only takes one to love. The very same marital research has revealed negative escalation can be disrupted when just one partner chooses to do something different and new.

As it turns out, love is doing the unexpected. Love is refusing to read from the script. It’s refusing to play the usual games. Love is laughing at yourself when you’re supposed to be yelling at your partner. Love is snuggling in when you would normally be choosing a night on the couch over a night in the bed. Love is a cup of coffee on the bedside table the morning after a big fight. Love is a surprise, and it only takes one.

And sometimes, the biggest surprise of all is when we respond with empathy instead of a retort.

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Transforming Conflict into Common Ground

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Empathy is a place of common ground where we understand the interior landscape of the other because we feel it, too. I know what you’re wondering: How in the world can we find that kind of common ground when we’re cut and bleeding from the daggers being thrown at us?

The answer is deceptively simple but painfully hard: the daggers lay the foundation for common ground. When our partner is hurting, they behave in ways to make us feel exactly the hurt they are feeling. They want us to “know what it feels like.”

Kelly Flanagan see this happen every day in marital therapy: Husband hurls an insult and wife gets hurt. He stop the interaction and he ask the wife how she feels and she says, “I feel hurt and alone.” And the angry husband fires back, “Well, that’s exactly how I feel.” They often look at Kelly Flanagan in stunned disbelief when he says, “Good, now you are both feeling the same thing. You can make that the common ground where you meet and have real empathy for each other. Or you can keep fighting. The choice is yours.”

And the truth is, it is up to each spouse. Either partner can be the one to do the radically unexpected—to transform that hurt into a place of empathy, to put down the verbal weapon that will move the conflict to the next rung of the vengeance ladder and instead to take a step down.

The surface of our conflict is loud, so we rarely become aware of the quiet and shared emotions beneath the surface. The gentle, vulnerable emotions whisper instead of screaming. They sob instead of shouting. They feel hurt instead of spreading hurt. They go completely unnoticed, and yet they are the common ground in which we can all exist together, look each other in the eye, and say, “Yeah, me too.”


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Climbing a New Kind of Ladder

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Our best research has revealed that love thrives when we stop giving our spouses what they deserve and start giving them the unexpected embrace of all that they are—when we give them, in a word, grace.

Ironically, in this regard, our scientists sound a lot like some of our theologians.

Let’s be still and quiet, and let’s listen for the pain beneath our anger. And when we finally notice the quiet common ground beneath the surface of our conflict, let’s go there. Let’s put words to it. Let’s be vulnerable. Let’s connect within it.

And let’s start climbing an entirely different kind of ladder together.

Comments? What makes it hard to de-escalate conflict and to empathize in this way?  Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this post.


Free eBook:

Kelly Flanagans eBook, The Marriage Manifesto: Turning Your World Upside Down, is available free to new subscribers of his blog.

Love thyself

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You can not give, what you don’t have.
As a Life Manager; Are you doing a good job?

Do you walk around with the feeling that you are not good enough. A constant fear that you might not have what it takes.
Then let’s make one thing clear. You are absolutely good enough, and you deserve love and affection like everyone else. Never for one second ever doubt that.

That said, you need to believe this your self. If you don’t believe it your self, you will never get rid of the fear that goes with it. And remember this; You are your own best friend and you own life manager. And looking at your self in these roles; Do you take good care of yourself? Do you give yourself a pat on the back when you do something good for yourself or others? Do you love yourself and work every day to make your life better? Or do you work for everyone else, trying to avoid them being disappointed in you, because you don’t jump every time they ask you to?

It is time to take care of you. Do what you enjoy. Love yourself for that unique human being that you are.

I’m not saying that you should be selfish and step on others along the way. Of course you need to respect others as you respect yourself, but if you are in a habit of pleasing others, because you are not worth pleasing yourself, then it is time to take care of you too. You are just as important to this world as anyone else, and if not for yourself, then at least take care of you for your loved ones. After some time, you will see that you are worth it, and begin taking care of you… for you.

You will find, that the more you love and respect your self, the more you love and respect your life, the less fear of failing or being rejected you will have to endure.

But how can we love ourselves?
Well this is where Louise Hay comes into the picture.
Louise L. Hay is the author behind the best selling book “You Can Heal Your Life“. She is also known as one of the founders of the HayHouse.

Through Louise Hay’s positive philosophy, millions have learned how to create more of what they want in their lives, including more wellness in their bodies, minds, and spirits.

One of the techniques she is using, is what she calls Positive Affirmations.

Positive Affirmations are like little reminders to the inner-self. The Positive Affirmations harness the power of positive thinking to keep the inner self on track! Not only is it important to regularly think these affirmations, it is a great idea to leave them lying around, where you will occasionally notice them. These affirmations are very powerfully reinforced by looking at yourself in the mirror as you speak them

The following is taken from “You Can Heal Your Life“. Louise has written it in such a way that it has appropriate affirmations to cover all aspects of your life. It is good to use to get started with affirmations and especially at night to just read through before going to bed. Make the affirmations work even better by looking in the mirror and say these things to yourself

Louise Hay affirmations:

“Deep at the centre of my being there is an infinite well of love. I now allow this love to flow to the surface.
It fills my heart, my body, my mind, my consciousness, my very being, and radiates out from me in all directions and returns to me multiplied.”

“I am open and receptive to all the good and abundance in the Universe.”

“The more love I use and give, the more I have to give, the supply is endless.”

“The use of love makes me feel good; it is an expression of my inner joy.”

“I lovingly do everything I can to assist my body in maintaining perfect health.”

“I love myself, therefore I take loving care of my body.
I lovingly feed it nourishing food and beverages.
I lovingly groom it and dress it, and my body lovingly responds to me with vibrant health and energy.”

“I love myself, therefore I provide for myself a comfortable home, one that fills all my needs and is a pleasure to be in.
I fill the rooms with the vibration of love so that all who enter, myself included, will feel this love and be nourished by it.”

“I love myself, therefore I work at a job that I truly enjoy doing, one that uses all my talents and abilities, working with and for people that I love and love me, and earning a good income.”

“I love myself, therefore, I behave in a loving way to all people for I know that that which I give out returns to me multiplied.”

“I only attract loving people in my world for they are a mirror of what I am.”

“I love myself, therefore I forgive and totally release the past and all past experiences and I am free.”

“I love myself, therefore I love totally in the now, experiencing each moment as good, and knowing that my future is bright, and joyous and secure, for I am
a beloved child of the universe and the universe lovingly takes care of me now and forever more.”

“Today is a delightful day. Money comes to me in expected and unexpected ways.”

LouiseHay.com
HayHouse.com

Affirmations and Positive Thinking
Affirmations are small but key positive messages to the self. They are used as reminders, helping to keep positive messages at the forefront of our consciousness. Not only is it important to regularly think these affirmations, it is a great idea to leave them lying around the place, where you will occasionally notice them. The affirmations are very powerfully reinforced by looking at yourself in the mirror as you speak them
Affirmations are a very powerful tool in supporting positive thinking and are very effective in changing life patterns and perspectives.
The benefit of positive thinking is medically well established. Affirmations allow you to consciously harness the power of positive thinking and direct it to specific areas of your life that need attention or where you want to bring about change. The great news is that affirmations really work and can transform your life!
Affirmations and positive thinking are very powerful tools that can bring about healing and change. But BEWARE, negative thoughts are just as powerful and can be very self-destructive. Whilst we have no real control over the world and certain aspects of our lives, we do have control over the way we interpret and react to it.

“The thoughts we think and the words we speak create our experiences”

You experience your interpretation as an internal dialogue. Thoughts, judgements and feelings are ceaselessly swirling through your mind. Thoughts like: I like this; I don’t like that; I am afraid of this; I am unsure about him/her.
This internal dialogue is not random, it is generated from a deep level by your beliefs and assumptions which have been formed and accumulated from the time you were born. It is worth remembering, that a lot of these assumptions and beliefs were formulated as a child and have never been re-examined and therefore may be highly inappropriate to you as an adult, or just simply wrong. When someone’s interpretation changes, a change subsequently takes place in their reality. Thus we can make big changes in our lives by changing our thinking.
“When your interpretation changes, so does your reality”

Making Changes in our Thinking
Awareness – Firstly, it helps to become aware of your thoughts and meditation can help us in the process of getting back in touch with ourselves. Just stopping and taking a second to think about why we are reacting to something or someone can also help us to get back in touch with what is really going on inside. Alternatively, we can just accept that our thoughts, whilst probably helping us in the past, may not be serving us now and just choose to “re-programme” ourselves with positive thoughts that heal and nourish us. The process of doing the new affirmations will start to release the old negative messages whether or not we are aware what they are.

Related article: Fear

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Fear

Fear is a basic survival mechanism, that is programmed into our brain for our own protection. This programming make us avoid and escape danger, when we are in a potential dangerous situation. In fact, fear is our friend, but it can be a little too protective sometimes. Warning us of danger’s that are not really there or blow a potential small danger totally out of proportions.

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