I am currently writing a book on relationships. I am really excited to get it published and try to help a lot of people. Part of my writing process involves bouncing ideas off friends to get their take on things. Lately, my friend and I have been talking about the use of the “pause” button to improve relationships of all kinds. Today I would like to share it with you.
Damaging Patterns and Automatic Responses
In most romantic relationships, we develop patterns of behavior over time. When one person does something, it can trigger the other person to react and say something they regret, or to act badly. These responses are automatic; we don’t even think about them. However, they are damaging and not kind or compassionate.
An excellent example of this is that I used to be in a relationship with a man who was often late and sometimes canceled on me. It used to drive me crazy, and when he would show up late or cancel altogether, I would immediately feel hurt and disappointed and then react badly. I felt like I was not a priority in his life or important enough for him to be on time or show up. In my hurt and reactive state, I would most often say something mean or just act angry for a few hours. These frequent responses built up a lot of resentment over the years, which ultimately affected our relationship in a very damaging way. I never wanted to react childishly, but I was unable to see any other option.
Using the Pause Method to Choose How to React
Having been single for several years now, I have learned a lot. That man and I have worked very hard to build a newer, stronger, healthier relationship that does not involve triggers and automatic reactions. When he is late or cancels, I don’t take it personally. I stop, PAUSE, and think for a minute about how I want to feel and handle it. I ask myself a few questions:
- Does it really matter that much?
- Do I need to feel hurt, or can I just let it go and feel okay?
- Does it mean he doesn’t care about me, or is it more likely that something is going on with him and he needs to set a boundary?
Sometimes I need to set very strict boundaries, and sometimes I am late and cancel on him. When I think about that, I realize it has nothing to do with him. It doesn’t mean I don’t care; it just means I need to take care of me.
So, by looking at it from a different perspective and taking that pause to consider how I want to handle it, makes all the difference. Even if we have plans and he changes his mind, it is not the end of the world. Sometimes I am pleased to have the extra time to myself. The “pause” you take matters. It gives you time to stop the flight of emotion and take stock of what is really going on and gives you a choice. You always have a choice of how to feel about something and how to handle it. Most of us forget that.
Mindfulness or a Spiritual Practice is the Key
To change these types of patterns and automatic reactions, in your relationship, you need a mindful practice or program for growth in your life. Slowing things down to recognize that you have an opportunity to employ the “pause” method is critical to success. Daily meditation helps me to be more self-aware and stop in the moment to assess how I want to proceed.
Just remember, each little step you take to change things in your relationship, has a ripple effect of improving your whole life.
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These tips come from my new book.