And someone has to follow.
Which one are you?
My historic response to complaints from my partner about the way I was communicating with him, or the mood I was in, was to say that it was born out of his behavior.
“I’m talking to you this way because you talked to me this way!” “I’m cutting you off because you cut me off!” “Speak to me with respect and I will respect you back!”
I felt totally appropriate and justified. I mean, it takes two to tango, and if he’s going to be an ass, then I get to act accordingly. But I didn’t realize that in doing so, I was completely giving up my power.
It takes a lot to overcome what I experience as physical withdrawal symptoms that accompany what feels like denying myself opportunity to make myself whole again by communicating (albeit often in a passive aggressive manner) that he is wrong. I mean, fuck taking a few deep breaths, he needs to have what’s coming to him, right?
Because I’m sure that when I’m wrong (if I can even admit that), I get the message very clearly when he or anyone else responds back angrily, or in a passive aggressive manner, and I change my behavior immediately and exactly the way they want me to. I’m kidding.
Even with the people we are closest to and love the most, we can only know a small fraction of the context from which they are coming, and if we choose to believe they are doing the best they can at any moment given their resources and emotional bandwidth; if we are able to assume good intent – even when it feels malicious to us; and if we are able to understand that the amount of pain they dish out has less to do with us and more to do with the level of their own pain, then we can then respond from a more patient and understanding place. We can increase our capacity for kindness. We absolutely don’t need to know the entire context of their lives to understand. Nor could that be possible. We simply need choose to understand that there is context there that we don’t have access to, and they might not either. But it’s there, in their sub~ or unconscious.
This doesn’t mean that we accept their behavior. We are not doormats, we have boundaries, and that means we let them know what is acceptable and what is not. Clearly and without emotional charge, because this is kindness (to both ourselves and to the other). We get to lead the tango.
When you change the dance, tantrums might ensue, but that’s okay, change is hard. The dance will change. Be patient and look for it.