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One of the first questions I ask couples in premarital counseling is, “Tell me about your last good argument.”
If they respond with something like, “We don’t argue,” my alarm bells start ringing.
Conflict is unavoidable in any close relationship. The question is not if you'll have conflict, but how you'll engage in conflict when it inevitably happens.
We can choose to ignore the frustration and sweep it under the rug.
We can charge in like a self-righteous bull and blow the other person over.
Or, we can approach it a third way: A way that invites us to step out of our reactivity and into understanding and mercy.
I have a dear friend who is notoriously slow to respond to texts and calls. I can’t remember the last time he picked up the phone or responded to my text without a day (or two) delay.
For years this slowly got under my skin until it reached a point of outright frustration. His lack of communication felt like rejection and I noticed defensiveness and dismissiveness creeping in. I thought, “Dude, come on! If you don’t want to connect, just tell me.” In this state of reactivity, I wanted to write him off.
But, of course, this relationship meant a lot to me – that’s why the rejection felt so painful. Before ghosting the friendship completely, I tried stepping out of my own narrative. I realized that I’d only interpreted his behavior through my lens of rejection.
So, I asked him about it.
He told me that for years he’d felt beholden to his phone and pressured to answer it any time of day. Every time the phone rang or “dinged,” he braced and even felt nauseous. For his sanity, he began to choose not to carry his phone around with him. Now, he can go a whole day without even looking at it (like all of human history before the 90s). He explained to me that he feels so much happier and connected in this new communication rhythm.
My friend’s slow responses weren’t personal or rejecting at all. In fact, I loved his choice to care for himself in such a powerful, counter-cultural way.
Understanding his story helped pop me out of my limited narrative and approach him with compassion. There are still times I feel frustrated with his slow communication, but now I have an understanding that quickly washes over my irritation with understanding and mercy.
– Rev. Greg Farrand | Second Breath Executive Director
In this week's featured practice, we acknowledge that frustration will be present in any close friendship. This isn't a bad thing!
Through spiritual practice, we invite you to bring awareness to your frustration in a way that allows you to respond with compassion rather than reacting out of hurt.
(To try out this week's Featured Practice, visit the Second Breath app on your iPhone or on your Android and find the "Practice of the Week" on the home screen.)