It was a date night with my wife, and we planned to see a movie. I asked my wife to hang on for a few minutes while I continued to work on a presentation for my speaking business. I was so focused on my project, and I lost sight of time. Fifteen minutes passed, and my wife was still patient, but after waiting an hour her patience turned into frustration, after two hours, her frustration became anger, and she yelled, “are you coming or not?” I was frustrated as I wanted to continue work on my project, and when she suggested movies to see, I reacted by yelling, “I hate these movie nights. We can’t even agree on a movie so what’s the point?” and continued to say “I would rather spend time with friends than doing these date nights,” her pale face turned red, and then I saw our coffee table flying in the air.
I realized I had gone too far, and I hugged her tightly whispering “it’s ok, calm down.” She said, “I need to release the fire in my belly. I need to hit something” I was thinking, “please don’t go for my face.” So I guided her towards the bed and said go for it! She was able to release her fire by kicking the shit out of bed.
As my wife beat the bed I was thinking of the opportunities this situation presented, and a quote by Bruce D Schneider came to mind, “life offers neither problems nor challenges but only opportunities.” Because of coaching, I was able to remain present yet unaffected and judgment-free! It was at that moment that I understood that “everyone does the best they can at any moment based on their beliefs.” Remembering these quotes helped me remain calm and enabled me to seek out the opportunity or silver lining as some would call it.
The next day, we sat together to have a chat. My wife inquired why I wouldn’t spend time with her? I told her that I do not enjoy going to the movies and find it to be an anti-social experience and that we have a deep connection, and would rather be doing something fun that we both enjoy or hanging out with friends. Then I suddenly remembered something that gave me an aha moment. There were times when I felt excited about movie nights, and it had nothing to do with the movie, it was all about the snacks! I rediscovered how much I enjoyed eating yummy food at the movie theater, but it wasn’t just at the movies, it was everywhere.
My wife, being a great coach, was curious to know more about my relationship with food and started asking me clarifying questions. I was honest and vulnerable, as I told her about not having enough food as a child. I explained the memory of always wanting chicken, but my parents could not afford it; I told her how that feeling of not having enough food followed me through life. I became obsessive, and even my roommate had thrown me out of our college apt due to my excessive eating. My mother suggested I become an engineer so I could afford all the food I craved, which I did! To this day, eating great food is one of the primary purposes of my life. However, I have learned to work it into my lifestyle in a healthy way and do things like go to the gym so I can enjoy food without the guilt! By sharing my most vulnerable thoughts, my wife could share her fears and feelings of abandonment, and I understood from a place of curiosity why quality time meant so much to her.
In summary, this situation presented the opportunity for us to learn about ourselves and each other on a deeper level. There was a time when I avoided angry people because of memories of an angry father growing up. However, because of my training as a coach, I was able to detach from anger or reaction. In the argument with my wife, I was able to be present, and judgment-free as my wife expressed her anger, beat up the bed, and did what she needed to do to release her anger. I didn’t take it personally because I understood where her anger comes from. This led us to a heartfelt, honest conversation. We were able to be vulnerable and as a result, my wife acknowledged my desire for great food and began cooking dishes that I love. I, in turn, am fully present for date nights. I even plan fun things that we both enjoy while fulfilling her need for quality time. Life provides us opportunities to grow and learn as long as we are open to see them and can let go of judgment.
Here is a challenge: How we do one thing is how we do anything. If you can make a shift in one area of life where you are experiencing conflict, it will shift all areas of your life. In other words, if you can make peace in your personal relationship, you can make peace in your career, business, and every other relationship. I challenge you to look for the opportunity in a conflict you are experiencing in one area of life and do so without judgment and curiosity. It will quickly transform all areas of your life where you are experiencing conflict. Would love to hear your thoughts or questions in the comments below.