Have you ever found yourself getting SO upset over something that in hindsight seemed SO insignificant? To be honest, this sounds a lot like a pattern that Maison + I have found ourselves falling victim to far too often lately. Here is a common example:
I would spend a lot of time and energy working on a project.
I would show that project to Maison.
She would tell me how I could make it better.
A fight would ensue.
HOW did this happen?
A few weeks ago we attended a marriage retreat called CONNECT. Get this you guys, it’s a retreat for couples in business together who are primarily wedding photographers. Talk about a perfect fit for us! We’ve come to love + respect this retreat because of the openness + vulnerability of the leaders + speakers of the retreat. This year at CONNECT, two of the leaders introduced a concept to us that really grabbed our attention. Once Maison + I heard the concept, we both looked at each other + knew it described us to a ‘T’.
Basically, what the couple shared was that our emotions are actually a waterfall that starts with anger (or multiple other emotions) + end with both parties unsatisfied because we both are failing to meet the ultimate, deeper need of the other person. Check this out:
You see guys, anger come from a place far deeper than what meets the eye. Often times we have emotional needs that are buried so deep we don’t even realize they are controlling our emotions. The amygdala, often referred to as the ‘lizard brain’, is the region of our brain that is primarily responsible for our survival. It subsequently has the most control over our emotions. (Here is a link to a list of emotional needs). Unfortunately, this complicates relationships because our brains are trying to protect us by covering up our needs. We avoid being open + honest with each other because that exposes us. It leaves us vulnerable + vulnerability has probably left us hurt in one, or oftentimes multiple, ways in the past. It is our developed self-preservation mechanism. But it is unhealthy for marriage. It assumes that Maison is out to destroy me when in reality she is seeking to help + build me up.
For clarity, let’s revisit that scenario at the beginning of this post through the lens of the emotional waterfall. When I showed Maison the project I was working on, I was ultimately ANGRY after her initial response because I was frustrated that Maison hadn’t fulfilled my expectation of praising my work away. And I could stop there. But that’s where the cycle continues. We have to get vulnerable to break the cycle.
(And just so you guys know, this is still really new to me + is terrifying to share. My fingers are shaking, making typing next to impossible, but I have to share. I can’t keep this bottled in because I know how great of an impact it will have on our marriage. And that’s why Maison + I are so excited to do what we do. We LOVE marriage).
When my Mom left my family as a child, I developed this unhealthy need to feel valued because my developing brain couldn’t wrap itself around the situation at hand. It said this. Your mom left YOU because YOU aren’t VALUED. Or to put in terms of this scenario: Maison doesn’t like your work because YOU AREN’T VALUABLE. And she will leave you just like your Mom.
Now everyone reading this that knows Maison knows that this wasn’t her intent. She was immediately excited about the project + wanted to share how WE could make the project better. That’s it. BUT… she also got angry when I made the rash generalization that she doesn’t like anything I do. It frustrated her that I would believe these lies about her even though she has told me countless times how much she loves + VALUES me. Ultimately, I was failing to meet her emotional need of feeling heard.
And that’s the waterfall. It starts with one small trickle + flows into two diverging rapids. There is hope. Over time, we have grown the ability to out smart our primitive lizard brains. To catch the rapids when they are a trickle. If we can just catch ourselves in the anger stage + stay with that feeling long enough. To sit with the pain behind our emotional need we can communicate with our significant others. We can be vulnerable. We can allow the person that God has given us to show us how much love triumphs over fear.
We are still new to this + if you are anything like me you will need some help processing. We aren’t experts but we’d love to encourage you in anyway we can.
Happy Monday all! -C