Why conflicts can be healthy but drama never is
Another night of relationship drama filled with senseless arguments, vain attempts to get your point across to your partner, shouting and yelling or crying and feeling like your world is falling into pieces?
Things were said, accusations were made, maybe even names were called. And it feels just awful to think about it now.
You feel hurt, confused, helpless… Physically exhausted and emotionally drained.
You had promised yourself to stop this relationship drama so many times before. But no matter how hard you try, nights/afternoons/mornings like this seem to happen over and over again. And this question in your head: Why are we doing this to each other?
Conflicts, misunderstandings and periods of increased tension are a normal and healthy part of being in a relationship.
If we are able to communicate clearly, build healthy rhythms of being together and apart, and manage our own emotions effectively, these periods can actually bring us closer together and build trust and resilience in our relationships.
And they don’t involve any drama at all.
The drama starts when:
- we are not able to handle our own emotions
- we fall victim to our unconscious patterns of thinking and behaving
- we are triggered by the events/words/facial expressions etc, get sucked into a time loophole and react to our old wounds and traumas rather than to what is going on here and now.
Drama does not only damage the connection, closeness and trust in the relationship, but it also wrecks our emotional well-being, our physical health, and steals our confidence and self-esteem.
It depletes our emotional, physical and spiritual energy, leaving us feeling lonely, disconnected and helpless.
If you find yourself stuck in repeating various drama scenarios, remember that we often get addicted to intense emotions and violent outbursts. And addictions are not easy to break free from on your own. Be sure to reach out for support as soon as possible. It can not only save you plenty of pain and suffering but also but savour the relationship.
Relationship Drama – 5 Essential Steps That Helped Hundreds Of My Clients Break Free
1. Practice the Pause
This is always the first and most important step to stop the drama. It’s simple and easy, but at the same time, it is often the most difficult one of all 5.
Drama always happens when we are hijacked for crazy roller-coaster rides by our unconscious patterns, reactions and behaviours. Once you’re in the middle of the ‘ride’, it often feels like you have no control over what is happening, like your impulses are stronger than your will, or like your emotions are so intense that you will burst if you don’t let them out.
The most sensible thing to do is not to get on the rollercoaster in the first place. Because once you’re speeding down in your little wagon, it’s far more difficult (if not impossible) to stop the whole thing and get off.
So, whenever you feel like the urge for a ride grows inside your body (and you always know when this happens!) or when you can observe this urge growing in your partner – step back. I’m sure you know so well by now that these rides (discussions, arguments, quarrels) don’t end well. Not for you, not for your partner, not for the relationship itself.
Take the effort (and I know, sometimes it takes a huge effort…) and step back. Take a pause, take a break, take time out. Do whatever you can, not to get on.
As mentioned above, drama is very addictive. We get hooked on the huge amounts of adrenaline that are secreted in our bodies during these emotional upheavals. Although the sensible and reasonable part of ourselves knows how detrimental these incidents are to our wellbeing and health, our body still craves the adrenaline rush. Just as the alcoholic’s body craves alcohol or drug addict’s body craves cocaine. This is a subconscious and very powerful urge.
What you truly need is long the detox phase and as much support as you can get.
2. Learn how to self-soothe
One of the reasons why taking a pause is so difficult is that once we step out, we have to face our raging emotions on our own.
The truth is they are your own emotions and it is you (and only you) who is responsible for handling them.
I know it feels easier in the moment, to blame your partner, to lash out at them, or to show them as vividly as you can how upset you are or to punish them by withdrawing completely. But I’m sure you also know that this only makes you feel worse in the end and contributes greatly to the disconnection, distrust and resentment that grows into a brick wall between you and your partner.
What to do instead? Learn how to self-regulate your nervous system when it gets thrown out of balance by something your partner does or says. Learn how to contain your emotions without avoiding or suppressing them and without acting them out. And, of course, learn how to communicate them to your parent when things cool down a bit and you can actually have a proper conversation.
If this sounds like a lot of learning, if soothing and comforting your own emotions is a challenge for you, be sure to watch my mini-training – 3 step formula.It will give you the best start!
3. Don’t trust appearances
Over 12 years of working with clients as a counsellor and coach (and plenty of personal practice!) I realize that our arguments are very seldom about what they appear to be about.
There are 2 things that you need to remember to stop misunderstandings, miscommunications and disagreements from spiralling into big, dramatic outbursts just because you allowed yourself to be blinded by emotions.
- When emotions are intense, the part of our brain that is responsible for logical thinking, analyzing, decision making, and also for mpathy and compassion just switches off. We are left at mercy of the lower parts of our brain, which are all about emotions and memory, as well as survival/defence/attack.
This coupling of emotions and memory is what makes us in our (even most trivial) conflicts quickly abandon the situation at hand and move into the vast and gloomy land of all the old unresolved conflicts, unforgiven hurts, or long-held resentments. And once you’re there, it’s not easy to come back.
Making a conscious decision to stay focused on the matter at hand and to keep your discussions relevant to here and now, without any trips to the past, no matter how tempting they may feel, can save the day. And the relationship.
- Most of our intense arguments have a hidden agenda. On the surface, they might be about the proverbial toothpaste tube that your partner leaves open notoriously (how annoying in that?!) or about the financial decision that needs to be made or even the choice of holiday destination. But in truth, we always fight about our deep needs that we feel are not met.
If you look under the surface of things, you will be able to see that what truly matters to all of us is to feel respected, heard, understood, appreciated and loved. And if we don’t, we will fight fiercely to change that!
So, first, learn how to take the pause and bring your triggered nervous system back to balance. Once you’re good at it, you will be able to bring the conversation to this deeper level of needs, both your own and your partner’s. This is where the communication becomes much easier and you can forget about the drama once and for good.
4. Declare NO VIOLENCE zone
This can be a real game-changer!
Emotional and verbal abuse is equally detrimental as physical abuse. It just kills you slower.
There is a very nice quote in one of Tim Mitchen’s songs which goes like this:
‘So never under estimate
The power that language imparts
Sticks and stones may break your bones
But words can break hearts’
Words hurt, and they create deep ruptures in the relationship. You can say sorry and apologize but you can never take them back fully. There is a lot of effort and time needed to heal the wounds they might have caused.
This is equally true for the “perpetrator as it is for the ‘victim’.
Continuing the drama is not good for any party involved and both of them are equally responsible to put a stop to it. If your partner behaves in a way that trespasses your boundaries and makes you feel hurt or threatened, your putting a stop to that is equally necessary for your own good as it is for theirs. Not to mention the relationship itself.
Make a conscious decision to say NO to any violence, in whatever shape or form it comes and declare your relationship a ‘non-violence zone’.
If you can agree to do this together with your partner, that’s great! But if not, you can still do it by refusing to participate in any interactions that feel to you perceive as crossing the boundaries within which you feel safe.
It is your right to do so, it is you responsibility to do so and … it’s simply an amazing, beautiful and deeply healing thing you can do for yourself and for the other person.
5. Practice (self) compassion, (self)compassion and (self)compassion
Both your own and your partner’s patterns and reactions have a long history.
These patterns and reactions were shaped by your family of origin and moulded by the way you were brought up They are also the side-effects of all the difficult situations, toxic relationships and traumas you have experienced in your life.
It is not your fault that they are the way they are! They were created because of people, events and circumstances far beyond your control.
And while it is your responsibility to manage and transform them so that they serve you much better, it helps to have plenty of compassion both for yourself and for your partner as you’re trying to do. It’s not a quick or easy thing to do.
None of us wants to be nasty, mean or cruel to others. Yet each and every one of us has behaved in a hurtful and unfair way towards others (and ourselves) on more than one occasion. The more hurt, wounded and in pain we are, the less safe we feel (with others and with ourselves) the deeper our urge to protect and defend ourselves often by attacking others.
We are only human. And part of being human is being imperfect, making mistakes and failing. Misunderstandings and disagreements are hard enough, no need to add an extra layer of suffering by blaming, guilt-tripping, looking for scapegoats or playing the victim.
Instead, say a clear ‘no’ to what crosses the boundaries you feel safe within. Safety is your deepest need and your biggest priority (not only physical but emotional as well).
But then, soften your energy and embrace yourself – your emotions, your reactions, your patterns. Wrap yourself with the warm light of compassion. Take a few breaths, gently put your hand on your heart and say something kind to yourself. And if you are up for it, do the same with your partner’s reactions and patterns as well.
(Self)-compassion is your biggest ally on the journey to put a stop to the drama in your relationship. It is also your biggest ally in transforming your relationship into a better, healthier and more fulfilling version.
(Read more about how to practice self-compassion here.)
Drama can be killing your relationship slowly but surely. It can also be draining your energy, and physical well-being not to mention your sense of self-worth and your contentment and satisfaction with life.
If you’ve noticed that drama has started to wreak havoc in your relationship lately or if you have been stuck in its vicious circle for a while, don’t wait a day longer. Let me help, click below to book a FREE DISCOVERY SESSION and let’s talk.