Why Stepping Back Could Be The ONLY Thing That Moves Your Relationship Forward

Recently, a former coaching client of mine from, oh, maybe seven years ago was reminiscing about our work together. She said, “Your advice that I needed to step back in my relationship with my daughter – in order to make room for her to step forward – this completely changed my life. It completely changed our relationship. When I stepped back a little bit, she totally stepped up”.

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea: what I recommended to this client was not that she turn her back on her daughter or cut off contact. Nor did I encourage her to deliver an ultimatum, make a long-winded speech about why she was going to step back, or stop speaking to her child.

However, there are times when the ONE thing that can move your relationship forward is stepping back with love. This is absolutely, positively NOT the same as turning your back on someone, throwing up your hands in a dramatic gesture, or trying to manipulate someone into doing what you want by threatening to dissolve your relationship. No.

The problem in a situation like this is two-fold:

1) A daughter is struggling

2) The relationship between mother and daughter is STUCK in a push-pull dynamic they can’t seem to get out of – one that is characterized by a loving, worried mom trying to help her daughter who resists, rejects or runs away from suggestions for change.

To be clear, everyone in this dynamic was in a lot of pain. The daughter was in distress because of the challenges she was experiencing. But mom, too, was in tremendous pain because she was watching her daughter struggle while unsuccessfully attempting to alleviate her daughter’s suffering.

What I suggested to my client was this: she would continue to spend time with her daughter whenever she could. But, while they were together, I invited my client to quietly shift this key dynamic: avoid offering advice, suggestions, or other thoughts about what her daughter could do to create more stability in her life.

If asked, mom could offer insight, wisdom, or knowledge – but only then. Otherwise, mom’s task was to listen, to witness, and to just be there, loving her kid like crazy. I suggested that by stepping back from offering helpful advice – advice her daughter didn’t or couldn’t (yet) welcome – she might open up some space between them.

This space might allow something new to enter their relationship. In particular, this new space could create an opportunity for her daughter to step forward and step up. Here’s the thing: my client knew her advice was really on point. She’s as loving and wise a mom as any of us could wish for. And she knew deeply that her daughter could experience her life in a completely new way if she made some different decisions.

But whether it’s your relationship with your child, partner, or best friend…there are times when stepping back with love is the only thing that can get you unstuck – beyond a cycle of push-and-pull that’s giving you both whiplash.

If any of this sounds at all familiar, I want to ask you this:

Are you trying to fix, rescue, or save another person?
Are you trying to carry the other person (or your relationship) on your back toward a finish line only you can see?
Do you feel like you continually reach out – only to have the other person pull further away (and as a result, you’re walking on eggshells trying to avoid conflict)?

No question, this is a tough place to be. However, sometimes, our loved ones become so unconscious to their own knee-jerk rejection of our reaching out to them…that our attempts to offer really thoughtful, loving support can actually push them further away.

If you continue in this way, you run the risk that the other person may become entirely alienated from you – and from the support you genuinely wish to offer them. So, how do you know it’s time to step back with love?

When you experience the subtle, uncomfortable feeling that your advice is being actively disregarded, dismissed, or declined…NOTICE your urge to lobby harder for your point of view – and quietly, gently step back from it.

Other tell tale signs that it might be time to step back with love include:

Your spouse, partner, or child is often impatient, abrupt, or has a short fuse whenever you switch into here’s-what-I-think-you-should-do mode.
They look away from you pointedly when you’re offering advice.
They turn the tables on you, pointing out mistakes you’ve made in a reactive counter-attack to what they perceive as criticism from you.

And this is the golden key to stepping back with love: it’s not the other person you’re stepping back from. You remain available to share support, connection, and insight if it is asked for clearly and directly – e.g. “Mom, what do you think I should do?”.

However, when you step back with love, you gently distance yourself from your own conviction that you know what the other person needs, what would serve them, what they should do…even better than they do. THIS is what you’re stepping back from – and here’s why: when someone is struggling with their shame demons, their mistakes, or their pain, they are very susceptible to feeling criticized, blamed, or even attacked.

In a situation like this, you can sometimes serve them best by being a soft place for them to land: a place where they know they’ll feel heard and seen, a place where they are understood and held in a loving gaze that silently mirrors to them their innate goodness – and your belief that they will come to know this in themselves again when the storms have passed.

Lest you worry you’re abandoning the other person, remember: it’s your love that permeates the space you’ve created for the other person to step forward into.
If and when they do step forward, it’s your love that will meet them there, in the space you’ve created by stepping back with love.

Because you may be right about what they need – but you may as well be wrong if they’re pushing back against your help. The result is the same. They stay in the difficult, painful place you desperately want to see them leave far, far behind. And as painful as it is to watch, a person you love may need to struggle, to flail, even to hit bottom. Sometimes it’s when we hit bottom…that we finally find our feet after months or years of free fall. If you find yourself in a situation like this one – but you’re not sure if it’s time to step back with love – I’d like to help.


If you’re curious about how Total Relationship Coaching can transform your relationships – whether you’re single, content in your relationship, or struggling through a rough patch – I’m offering you a chance to get me one-on-one for a complimentary, 45-minute Relationship Reboot Strategy Session.

Saddle up your biggest relationship wish – and let’s get you on track. Send me an email at erin@erinbentley.com right now and we’ll schedule your session in a hot minute!

Note: I only offer two of these Relationship Reboot Strategy Sessions per week and exclusively to professionals who are serious about creating loving, lasting, healthy relationships. If that is you, shoot me an email right now so we can get you scheduled in. Talk to you soon!

Stop The Press And Hold The Roses, Batman: There’s A Secret Ingredient To Lasting PASSION (hint: it’s not AA batteries)

One of the most common complaints I hear in my private relationship coaching practice goes something like this:

“I just wish we could be close again. It used to be so easy”


“Erin, we’re just not having sex anymore!” 

You might think I hear the first one from mostly women and the second from the fellas.

But you’d be mistaken.

I hear both of these comments from women and men.

Sometimes, the arrival of a new baby has derailed the chemistry a couple has enjoyed in their relationship. In other cases, increased work demands, financial stress, or a crisis such as infidelity has nixed the boudoir bom diggity.

Recently, I worked with a couple grappling with just this kind of crisis. They courageously worked very, very hard to get to the roots of what caused the affair (it’s almost never about the sex, but often about wanting to FEEL like someone is engaged, interested, or fascinated by you).

This couple did the work to rebuild trust and closeness, one step at a time.

During our last session, the Mrs. literally bounced into my office and announced, “My husband and I just had the best sex of my LIFE!”

She and her partner have been married for thirteen years.

How is sustainable passion possible – even after an affair?

The major challenges couples experience in keeping the passion alive are fairly straightforward: boredom, disconnection, and – most dangerously – an overall lack of engagement with one another.

In other words, they’re living together, eating together, sleeping together – but they’re not fundamentally and mutually interested in one another’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

While a dozen long stem roses or a candlelit dinner can be lovely, welcome, and sexy – and can temporarily breathe life into those satin sheets again – most folks are seeking a way to create sustainable passion; the kind that ignites even in the absence of lingerie, bedroom condiments, and sweeping romantic gestures.

And there is ONE quality, ONE area of relationships that can deliver the sparks, the come hither looks, and the magic year after year…after decade.

The problem is, it gets overlooked because it doesn’t sound that romantic. It doesn’t show up in movies and TV shows as THE irreplaceable ingredient to lasting passion.

And for this reason, when I introduce it as the VitaMix par excellence that will get the juices flowing over and over and over again…folks are sometimes astounded. Astonished. And maybe a tad skeptical.

The secret ingredient to enduring passion…is curiosity.

Stay with me, now. I’ve seen this work time and time again.

Remember when you were in the honeymoon phase? Your sweetheart or lover was SO interested in everything about you – your interests, your politics, your hopes, dreams, and aspirations!

Remember the late night calls, long emails, and rambling text messages?

Everything about you was a juicy, delicious mango that your new love wanted to explore and experience to the fullest.

S/he wanted to know you, see you, get you – and everything about you.

In other words, they were CURIOUS about…you.

Wasn’t it amazing to have someone be so into you?

Wasn’t it just incredibly HOT to see and hear and feel someone just want more and more of…you?

The trouble, however, is this: curiosity has to be cultivated!

I’ll put it another way:

One of the surest ways to kill passion is to assume you know everything there is to know about your lover – to stop asking questions, stop striving to “glimpse their hiddenness” (Hendrix, 2008: 136).

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been married for fifty years – though I celebrate this accomplishment, truly.

When it comes to cultivating curiosity, there’s always more to uncover and discover about another human being.

For one thing, people are always evolving: we are all moving targets, forever in the process of becoming, as they say.

For another, human consciousness is infinite – and the capacity of the heart is eternally expanding. Believe it.

Should you be blessed with a full and long life together…there will still be things you simply don’t have time to discover about one another: unexplored, emerging, or evolving character traits, beauty, and yearnings live within your lover.

Not even a lifetime is long enough to fully come to know them all.

But you can sure as hell try!

A relationship is a living, breathing thing.

Like any living thing, a relationship needs to be nourished. It requires care, feeding, and tending so it can flourish and thrive – passionately!

And the one irreplaceable ‘nutrient’ a relationship MUST have if you want sustainable passion…is curiosity.

So if you’ve lost your curiosity about your lover, start asking questions – of them, and of yourself.

Don’t assume you know what they mean, what they feel, what they think, what their motivation or intention is.

Ask. Please ask.

Also, ask yourself questions like, “Am I assuming I know what s/he is REALLY thinking, feeling, meaning?”

Gently notice and step back from these assumptions and interpretations.

And don’t, please don’t fall into the TRAP of saying to yourself, “I know my spouse better than anybody!”

Remember: your mom said this about you, too – usually right after she reminded you that she changed your diapers.

Not. Sexy.

Guess what?

As much as you’ve changed since you were in Pampers? You will change that much and more – so much more – between the age of 20 or 30 and 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 years of age.

It’s like there are multiple incarnations of you waiting to be born in this one lifetime.

Here’s the best part: if you’re in a committed relationship, you GET TO discover this person again and again. Just like you did in the beginning!

Instead of being the ‘expert’ on your other-half, be the most engaged, avid explorer of their inner world, their always-emerging newness – as well as the outer expressions of who they are (forever) becoming.

Then, as you cultivate your curiosity about your lover day after day…watch and delight in how they respond.

Watch how their inner light turns on and turns up as they feel your keen interest, your curiosity…your passion to (re)discover and appreciate every little thing about them.

Then, enjoy the lifelong sparks that fly within you…and between you.

If you’re curious about how Relationship Coaching can transform your relationships – whether you’re single, content in your marriage, or struggling through a rough patch – I’m offering you a chance to get me one-on-one for a complimentary, 45-minute Relationship Reboot Strategy Session.

Saddle up your biggest relationship wish – and let’s get you on track. Send me an email at erin@erinbentley.com right now and we’ll schedule your session in a hot minute!

Note: I only offer two of these Relationship Reboot Strategy Sessions per week and exclusively to professionals who are serious about creating hot, happy, and healthy relationships. If that is you, shoot me an email asap so we can get you scheduled in. Talk to you soon!

Part II – The #1 Thing Sabotaging Your Shot At The BIG Love (and how to turn it around for good!)

If you ever feel like you’re treated as though your needs don’t matter in relationship…you are in the right place, Dear One.

If you sometimes experience a suspicion that while you’re taking care of everyone else, no one is thinking about your needs…tune in and turn on, Neighbour.

If you sometimes run monologues in your head like, “Today, I’ve washed the walls, bought the groceries, started a small business, and planted an organic, biodynamic garden to feed my family. So why the hell is my sleep-deprived-ass in the kitchen making dinner, too?”…I hear you, Mister / Sister.

If you ever feel hesitant, guilty, or like you simply can’t say ‘no’ to other people’s demands on your time, presence, and energy…there’s something we need to discuss.

You may be suffering from a condition I call Boundary Bankruptcy – and it is the #1 thing stopping you from creating the BIG Love you want in your life.

Boundary bankruptcy is the feeling of resentment, fatigue, or victimhood resulting from prioritizing other people’s needs ahead of your own, most or all of the time.

As I suggested in Part I (Goodbye Relationship Martyr, Hello BIG Love), SO many people have bought into this idea that the BIG Love can only be achieved by giving away the farm – your needs, your dreams, your well-being – through self-sacrifice.

But the obligations, exhaustion, resignation, and the simmering “it’s not fair!” generated by your habit of saying ‘yes’ to others at your own expense…these can never add up to the BIG Love.

Oh, you might start out feeling the BIG Love – but persistently sacrificing your personal boundaries creates a steady decline until all your ‘love accounts’ are, well…bankrupt.

You can’t create the BIG Love when you’re operating from this kind of emotional and spiritual relationship deficit.


Because unlike financial bankruptcy – which comes with the awful feeling that you owe someone else – when it’s your personal boundaries that are chronically overdrawn, you feel an unavoidable sense that you are owed something.

Some recognition. Some payback. Some time, some energy, some, “Hey, you, it’s your turn to be taken care of for a while” (and not just on your birthday, Mother’s Day, etc.).

If this sounds familiar, I am here to tell you:

The Bank of You Matter Is Calling.

They said you urgently need to start making deposits in your checking (your needs) account. You’re overdrawn.

Seriously: what do you need? Do you need time to paint? Write? Practice yoga? Connect with your bestie?

Perhaps you’ve been throwing your dreams on the back burner to help others achieve theirs.

Or possibly you’ve been so (externally) focused on taking care of others that you’ve actually lost touch with what your needs, your goals, and your dreams are.

This kind of clarity is essential.

Clarity requires daily injections of inner reflection.

So often, I hear folks who mistake a boundary for just saying NO. But boundaries don’t start with saying no.

You can say ‘no’ to everyone in Creation and still not say, ‘yes’…to yourself.

Saying ‘no’ is important at times – but it’s not the same as knowing you matter.

And that’s what we’re really talking about here: because if you’re always putting your needs aside, you are communicating to others that you fundamentally don’t matter.

Remember: we teach other people how to treat us…based on how they see us treat ourselves.

Here’s the good news: by placing your genuine needs higher on your priority list, you make a powerful statement that says, “I Matter”.

This absolutely, unequivocally requires that first, you say “yes”…to yourself.

And this is the basis of ALL healthy boundaries in relationship: identify what you really need and do that first.

This will always be an investment in the BIG Love – because in addition to filling you up, saying ‘yes’ to yourself first simultaneously reduces the burden of resentment, obligation, and fatigue you experience in relationships.

Do this often enough and you eliminate boundary bankruptcy – and instead, you build up your love accounts. And there’s no limit to how high that balance can go!

If this sounds good to you, here’s a little BIG Love to get you started.

I’m offering you a chance to get me one-on-one for a complimentary, 45-minute Relationship Reboot Strategy Session. Saddle up your biggest relationship struggle – and let’s get you back on track…to the BIG Love. Send me an email at erin@erinbentley.com right now and we’ll schedule your session. I can’t wait to help you get started!

Part I – So Long Relationship Martyr, Hello B.I.G. Love

If you’re reading this, I’m going to go out on a limb and make some assumptions about you. Ready? Okay.

  • You possess a big, brassy heart.
  • You want to breathe in beauty and exhale magic.
  • You aspire to be a connoisseur of passionately crafted, joyous delight (all kinds).
  • Your veins contain not blood, but equal parts verve, tenderness, desire, and juicy, JUICY potential for impacting the lives of others.
  • You’re not interested in ‘small talk’. You want BIG talk.

In fact, you want a BIG life populated by BIG people who are capable of blowing your mind with monumental, soul-shuddering, cell-tingling ideas, inspiration and oh yeah…BIG freaking love.

Am I getting warm? Is there a part of you that wants to cheer out loud, just a little bit? Confess. You want the BIG love.Large_BIG_Love_CROPPED

“I dream of a love so small that I barely notice it” said no one ever. Am I right?

You’ve always dreamed of the BIG Love. And if you’re one of the lucky few, you even have it in your life right now.

I do. It’s even better than I dreamed it would be. Powerful. Challenging. Transformative. Joyful. Tearful. Awakening. And, oh my, is it sexy.

However, if you don’t yet have the BIG Love you want – if you’re circling around its potential in your life…but it hasn’t fully been realized in your experience – then there’s a hang up with living your manifesto, walking your talk, or rocking your theme song.

If you don’t have the BIG love you want, there’s no way around it: you’ve got to begin by acknowledging that something’s not working. Saddle up your honesty and dispense with any denial about this.

This isn’t about blame. On the contrary, it’s about getting clear about how things are so you can plot a direct path to living your life they way you want it to be.

The #1 Reason The BIG Love Is So Elusive (aka the damn map is wrong!)

We’ve been sold a devastating lie that – if you want the BIG love – you have to sacrifice everything for it.

But this doesn’t work, does it?

You know. You’ve tried. Oh, honey, I know how hard you’ve tried.

Indeed, if you’re anything like me, you worshipped at the altar of the relationship martyr for years.

You’ve chanted that give-more-mantra until your hoarse!

After working with thousands of private clients and workshop participants, here’s what I’ve discovered: sacrificing your needs, your dreams, your passion, i.e. your personal boundaries, means your self-worth is up for grabs, too.

Bottom line: if you’re practicing self-sacrifice to get the BIG Love, your self-worth will always be a casualty.

And there is no avoiding the corrosive consequences of self-sacrifice on you.

The more you sacrifice and fail to find the BIG Love, the worse you feel about your efforts. So you sacrifice more. And more. And still, the BIG Love you want is out of reach.

Meanwhile, you’re so depleted, frustrated, or resentful, you barely have the energy to sneeze.

Gradually, you might even become so turned around that self-sacrifice sneaks in and becomes the goal: you forget that it was supposed to be a means to an end – the supposed Express Route to the BIG love.

After all – what is more all-consuming than the hamster wheel of taking care of everyone else’s needs?

Perhaps most tragically, you started to believe that BIG Love just isn’t possible for you.

You become convinced that it’s only “realistic” to settle for less than you really, really want.

What I’m describing is the trap of the relationship martyr.

Having applied the sacrifice-all approach to creating the BIG Love, you may have concluded that you should give up on the goal.

“Something’s better than nothing, right?”

But, in reality, it’s your approach to achieving the BIG Love that needs an upgrade.

If you really want the BIG Love, you can no longer be a devotee of the snake oil salesman who says, “If sacrifice yourself for your relationship, it’s okay! The relationship will meet all your needs”.

This doesn’t work.

The BIG Love can’t be bought – not with a fistful of silver, and certainly never with self-sacrifice.

But I promise you: the BIG Love is entirely achievable.

Never doubt that you are completely capable of having the BIG Love: capable of creating it, nurturing it, growing it, sharing it, breathing it, living it.

You are.

So: if you or someone you know is ready to get off the relationship-martyr-merry-go-round, I have a solution for you.

The only thing you need to grab up it with both hands…is a deep WILLINGNESS to no longer feel frustrated, disappointed, resigned or afraid to hope in your quest for The BIG Love.

So if this is you…jump on over to my next article, “The #1 Thing Sabotaging Your Shot At The BIG Love!

Or, if you’re ready to do something REAL right now so you can get back on track, here’s a little BIG Love to get you started.

I’m offering you a chance to get me one-on-one for a complimentary, 45-minute Relationship Reboot Strategy Session. I only do two of these each week, so don’t wait to get in touch. Saddle up your stickiest relationship struggle and send me an email at erin@erinbentley.com right now. I can’t wait to help you get started!

F.I.E.R.C.E. Relationships – A Manifesto

fierce |fi(e)rs|

  • showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity: s/he kissed her with a fierce, demanding passion.
  • ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French fiers ‘fierce, brave, proud,’ from Latin ferus ‘untamed.’

I want to talk about the stuff that empowers heart-changing, soul-expressing, passion-growing human connection.

I’m going to talk about these things because I want to change the world.

“Wait a minute,” you say. “What do relationships have to do with changing the world?”

Only this: if we can remember and consciously embody the real purpose of relationship, we can eliminate generations of pain and suffering from the world.

And I believe, with everything in me, that by eliminating pain and suffering within and between people, we can achieve world peace, protect the environment, create beauty, raise conscious children…the sky’s the limit! The full breadth and depth of human potential awaits. We might even find a way to make gluten-free chocolate chip cookies that taste as good as not-so-gluten-free mom’s. In the spirit of this manifesto, below, I review six qualities of F.I.E.R.C.E. relationships. I hope you find something here that speaks to you.

Just one thing: If you are more interested in shame and blame, criticism and drama, being a victim (or enabling others to see themselves this way)…this blog is not for you.

However, if you are curious about how human relationships can be THE sacred space – the crucible – in which you can discover and experience your every beauty, your most mind-bending passion, and the deepest essence of the Love that you ARE…

…then you are the person that I am speaking to, speaking about, and cheering for. You are the one I am here to serve.

I love you – and I’ve got you.

Six qualities of F.I.E.R.C.E. Relationship

FFreedom: Freedom from social expectations, obligations, and family pressures. Freedom to create your relationships in ways that are aligned with the evolving truth of Who You Are! Still figuring out exactly what that is? No problem! Your relationships are the first, best place for figuring out the answer to the question, “Who Do I Want To Be?”

Bottom line? Ditch all your should’s like a bad date.

I Interdependence: as in NOT codependent, needy, or commitment phobic. Interdependence is the healthy middle-ground between too much independence (me, me, and more me); and codependence (excessive emotional or psychological reliance on another). Think, “You complete me!”. That’s not romance. It’s codependence. Relationship isn’t about finding your wholeness. It’s about sharing your wholeness (hint: you’re already beautifully, perfectly, luminously WHOLE).

Bottom line? Keep the I, the You, and the We in balance.

EEmotional (self) Awareness: as opposed to emotionally disconnected or emotionally illiterate, shut down, etc. The #1 source of stress in modern life? Emotional stress. The #1 threat to a relationship? Repressed or unexpressed emotions (nope, it ain’t lack of $$$ or sex – it’s storing up how we FEEL about those things).

Bottom line? A smart person once said, “A feeling just wants to be felt”.

R – (radical personal) Responsibility: I am responsible for my feelings, my actions, and my reactions. You don’t “make” me feel, act, or react. I do. This is one most of us stumble and fumble with. We’re trained from the boob to blame where we are (or aren’t), how we feel (or don’t) on someone or something else. It’s almost as if we live in a society of professional victims! But the problem with this? Powerlessness is a big, freakin’ lie! That’s why it’s EXHAUSTING.

Bottom line? Don’t like how it looks, feels, smells? Choose again.

CCourage: Dr. Charlotte Kasl suggests that the most courageous thing a person can do is turn around and face what’s hurting them. Guess what? Your relationships will put your old pain, your family shit, and the gunk in your shadow in your face like nothing else. Why? Because that’s what relationships are supposed to do! Not exactly the romantic comedy version of romance, is it?

Bottom line? It is courage – even more than love – that ignites and empowers passionate, lasting relationship.

EEvolutionary: An evolutionary relationship is one that rolls out the red carpet for change, growth, and transformation. Human beings are socially, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and psychically WIRED for change and adaptation. It’s built in – not part of the options package. But here’s the painful paradox: we’ve been taught to FEAR change. There’s this awful lie that says our security lies in everything staying the same. This is the emotional equivalent of SNAKE OIL! Nothing will kill passion, suppress your spirit, or ring the death bell of a relationship faster than seeking security by trying to prevent change.

Bottom line? Make space in your relationship to welcome change…and you get to fall in love over and over again.

Wishing you EVERY joy that FIERCE relationship can bring…

Erin Bentley, MA,

Total Relationship Coach, Author, Workshop Leader

The Big WHY Behind He Said / She Said

Recently, I was coaching a couple who were seriously bogged down by disagreements in their relationship. One of them would try to tell me a story, and this would quickly devolve into a back and forth of, “I didn’t say that / Yes you did!” Both partners were really frustrated. They couldn’t agree on what had been said, let alone move beyond the disagreement to resolution. As a result, their arguments had been getting swept under the rug for a long time – a pattern with potentially dire consequences.

Uninterrupted, he said / she said can have a devastating impact on the willingness of each person to BELIEVE anything the other says.

In other words…

One of the biggest casualties of these “he said / she said” struggles is…TRUST!

As I gently brought my clients’ attention back to me, I asked them to close their eyes, and check in with how their BODIES were feeling.

And do you know what? They finally agreed on something! 

BOTH described similar physical sensations:

“I feel a tightness in my abdomen and chest”

“My throat feels tight”

“I really want to get up and leave the room”

“I feel anxious”

“My heart is beating a bit fast, and my breathing feels shallow”

“I want to close my hands tightly”.

These are all signs of the body’s stress response – also known as “fight or flight” mode!

As my clients gradually withdrew their attention from the argument and each other, I walked them through a quick visualization exercise.

After a few minutes both of them began to feel more at ease; the tension began to leave their bodies; and both looked visibly more relaxed.

And this is where our work together began as I explained that…

Our nervous systems do not distinguish between the physical threat of being chased through the woods by a bear; and an argument with our spouse!

To the nervous system, both scenarios register as a threat to life and limb.

When that happens, higher functions like reasoning, thinking, and analyzing disappear faster than chocolate at a baby shower!

During a stress response, the body’s only priority is survival.

And this is the BIG WHY behind those he said / she said conflict patterns!

It goes like this: we find ourselves in an argument; our stress response can kick in; and our ability to think, reason, retain information, or learn switches OFF.Because the stress response diminishes our ability to think, to learn, and to retain…we struggle to fully think about what we’re saying; and it is difficult to accurately remember what we said OR what the other person said!

In other words, it is extremely likely that each person will not only have different recollections of “what happened” – there is also a very good chance that our own recall is incomplete or just plain inaccurate!

Later, say, during a session with your friendly, neighbourhood relationship coach, it’s nearly impossible to come to consensus about what was said, how, by whom, etc.

So what do you do?

I’m so glad you asked!
The Fix: 3-Steps to Getting Rid of He Said / She Said
1) Bring your attention back home…to you.

Drawing attention away from the subject of who said what and when is essential to getting back to what’s going to move your relationship forward.

Redirect your attention within you. Notice, observe, and witness what’s going on for you: how does your body feel? Is there any tension anywhere (hands, face, jaw, belly, back, neck, etc.).
Bring your attention back to your breathing each time your mind wanders back to the argument. You will need to do this again and again…and again. Persist. Keep coming back to your breathing until your body feels at ease again. Imagine you could breathe directly into those parts of your body where you feel tension, tightness, or (to use a technical, coaching term) “yechy”.

2) Avoid forcing a false consensus.

Coaching tip du jour: you actually don’t need to agree on what was said.
Too often, we get caught up in arguing about what we did or didn’t say. But there is nothing sacred, holy, or revolutionary about being in lock step about who said what.
Sure, there can be times when this is helpful or even useful.

BUT: if you’re getting bogged down with disagreements about who said what, when, and to whom, check yourself!

Examine WHY this feels important for you.

If your deeper motivation is about getting the credit, being right, making the other person wrong, or justifying / rationalizing what you said, felt, and thought…STOP!

[NB: a wrong-making motivation will often try to disguise itself as, “I just want to be accurate”; or, “I’m just being precise.” Don’t fall for it. Relationships aren’t moved forward by hair-splitting].

Remember: put your connection first. Connection isn’t about accuracy, precision, who’s right, or who said what. Fixating on these will not bring you together; and there’s a darned good chance that they could drive you apart!

3) Find the third option

I sometimes call this the solution to the “me vs. you” dilemma.

Instead of going around and around about who said what to who (and who is right about what was said), PAUSE.
Ask, “What serves the relationship? What would make our connection feel safer, more inviting, more rewarding?

Then, lay to rest the issue of what was said by whom – and take steps to offer the relationship whatever it needs to thrive. This takes you out of defending / rationalizing your needs; or feeling cornered into sacrificing yourself to meet someone else’s needs. In fact, genuinely engaging with the question, “what does our relationship need in order to thrive” is generous to both of you. It’s a triple win: you win, your sweetheart wins, and the relationship wins.

And that is so much better than the roiling mass of ick that you’re left with after another round of unresolvable, “he said / she said!

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