Addressing argumentative and/or withdrawn relationships in group.
Posted by John on 03/05/2007 17:32:28
Well, I'm just shocked to see Classroom Talk cut down so drastically to
the size of just the few of us who have been around here lately. I say
it's good! And it's what Brent had to do in order to get me back in
class again. It's like starting over with what we've actually got, here
and now. I like it!
At a certain point, over a week ago, I started seeing a strange
phenomenon. I'd open the class bulletin board and my computer would
freeze up on me. I couldn't scroll down, or use any other function. I'd
have to shut down by hitting the escape button on the side of my
computer. As this went on for days, I asked Brent about it. At first I
thought it might be the work of a hacker, perhaps a disgruntled spammer
who had been foiled by Brent's new code system. But I soon found that
none of my friends were having any similar problems with Classroom Talk,
and Brent found no evidence of hacking. It was just my own computer that
was affected this way. Weird!
Through a process of trail and error, Brent discovered that (for whatever
unknown reasons) my computer couldn't handle that long debate about war
and peace, with so many linked postings in a row that somehow got so far
over the right side of the page that it disrupted my computer's ability
to compute it.
Now that's a piece of irony, I would say. When "war broke out" between
"the liberals" and "the conservatives" in the class, it actually,
physically, mutually bombed out my ability to participate with the class.
Am I being superstitious in seeing a "connection" here? Hee-hee!
Anyway, Brent has gotten around this by transferring all the postings on
the board to the Annex, except for these few that are still right here
before you when you drop in to class now. And here I am again.
I flowed with it pretty well!
And arriving again, I really like seeing these latest postings that Me2
inspired, with a request that we all get to know each other better in
terms of our life circumstances by sharing, outfront, some key glimpses
As for me in my turn, I'm 72, have lost most of my teeth yet can't
tolerate a bridge (osteoporosis), and I present a sometimes comic,
sometimes gruesome image. Not so scary, though, with my mouth closed.
I've lived alone since my grown up son fell in love years ago, and moved
out to share owning a house with his beloved. That partnership ended for
them and after living alone for a long time, he got picked by another
loving woman, and they treat each other very well to this day. It makes
me happy when I'm over there and hear them laughing together preparing a
meal. It's my sense that my hard-working, fearless, gentle, and highly
competent son is the most wonderful thing that's happened to me in my
Three times divorced over the span of my life—my fault every time!—yet, I
maintain a sense of friendship with my son's Mom and her husband, and I'm
grateful for all they have given him in contributing to his development.
My son is one of those rare people that everyone seems to like and
respect for his skills and his peacefulness. At times when I'm at
gatherings, I hear someone I've just met saying to me: "Ah! So you're
Huna's Dad!" and I can hear the glow of wonder and admiration in their
Although I count several women in my small long-time circle of friends in
Tucson, we are just great friends. And it has been a long time, say 18
years, since I was last with a loving girlfriend. I don't date. And I'm
not really looking, even though I do get quite lonely some of the time,
missing the pillow talk so much, and cuddling and all that good stuff.
And I do kinda wish it would prove to be my Destiny to get one more
chance to "do it right," when it comes to relationship in my lifetime. I
think I have finally caught on, in my old age, to what that would take,
if I could keep awake enough to really be the loving partner she would
deserve. It seems ironic if I don't get another chance to put these
realizations into practice.
So . . . . . what else?
It strikes me that having that background history that I just outlined,
would be a strange qualification for a guy about to have the affrontery
of talking about things that can work in healing the conflicts in some
broken relationships, and in bringing back the pleasures of the love of
old in some withdrawn relationships (c.f. sleeping in separate rooms).
When I am only in a position to share coaching with one of the parties,
say the woman (because there are some profound differences in men and
women, as such, that are widely to be seen.) (Sorry. This does not mean
I am not 100% Feminist, but only that I am also 100% phenomenologist
(c.f. "seeing is believing").
So I am going to coach three steps that I recommend for wives in
withdrawn marriages, who may begin exploring the possibilities of joyous
reconciliation by trying them out and seeing what happens.
Step One: Using Scot and Eddie's recent, heh-heh, "conversation" on war
and peace, for example, as a fortuitous recent *vivid* experience we all
shared in class here together, and, for the sake of study, calling that
"a war," if you are all sharp-eyed enough to see what I mean, then . . .
. . . .
Is there a war going on between you and your husband over any certain,
obvious disagreements that each of you have with each other over and over
again? Be honest. If there are any such disagreements, let them be
awarely recognized. Notice that when these disasgreements come up, they
are like hot-button triggers to strong negative emotions by one of the
other of you, or both. This is a description of what I call "a hang-up
argument," regardless of whoever may be right or wrong in it. Something
has to happen to start it off. Some words have to be said—even by
accident—and a steam-roller of emotions is going to start coming out of
the mouth of one or the other of them. And, as if neither can do
anything about it, the argument becomes a war, a war of unconscious knee-
jerk reactions that are painful, back and forth, a war of personalities.
In my approach to this oh-so common human experience of withdrawn
marriage (I have seen this in my life, too, first-hand), the first thing
I'm aiming at is recognizing where the greatest frictions are coming
from, if any. Maybe you are so withdrawn from each other you are not
fighting. Maybe you are withdrawn and also fighting.
By practicing awareness, one can address these outbursts of tensions and
aggravating happenings, when they are spotted, and steer around, or
through them, "being space" to the impacts of these emotional poundings,
and with-holding judgments on the issue that's come up. One can practice
not-reacting to the emotional impacts, yet knowing by feeling that the
tensions of the emotions are on your body. One can practice NOT striking
back with impacts against the adversary, although strong emotions might
seem to impel you to. Being awake, one can learn to step aside from all
that, and continue to operate in a state that is free of all that
emotional reactivity. It is real, so we don't deny it, but having an
objective handle on it this way, and keeping awake, we don't *have to*
act-out, we don't have to strike back. Yes, this takes some practice.
So, my first step in this situation would be to see if there is tension
and uptightness going on in certain situations that come up again and
again, and learning not to be a bag of knee-jerk reactions, not
contributing to the back-and-forth get-backs when "your turn to
automatically attack" comes around again. With practice, one *can* get
on top of these cycles of back-and-forth violence, and do a "non-doing"
of your usual part in that. And you have a legitimate right to feel
proud of you when you start being able to do that.
Just your subtracting your share of the uptight words and acts from the
field, or space that you are sharing with your husband, can make a
noticeable difference in the dynamics of what follows. He will know
there's something going on with you, when he can no longer draw you into
arguments or fights. If—as happens in some marriages—he is hitting you,
then you probably owe it to him as much as to you to get safely out of
So, Step One: Be awake enough to stop doing the things that contribute
your share of stinging words and violent acts to any situation where
fighting seems imminent.
Now, with somewhat greater peacefulness in the field, do an honest soul-
searching to find out if the predominance of you really is wishing for
another chance to have a happy relationship with your mate. Do you still
feel sweet towards him sometimes? Can you really pick him to be your Man
another time, and decide to patiently put your whole Being into showing
him that you love him for awhile?
Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe there are other factors in the scene that
are more important than the nature of the husband-wife relationship.
These are things that ought to be contemplated, in Step Two, that will
help you to see if you can really invest your being into having a loving
relationship with him again. Do you really mean it? Do you really wish
to be able to pick him again to be your Man?
Otherwise, your very hesitation with him could possibly be the barrior
that unconsciously holds him off from you. Who knows? Maybe he dearly
wishes for a chance to go for the whole enchilada, so to speak, with you
again. Do you?
I'm taking the risk of projecting the idea that the parties in our model
of an estranged marriage can both remember earlier times when they felt
they were deeply in love. I hope that's so. For one thing, if that was
once so, it does prove that both of you, as you are, actually can enjoy
life being in love with each other. It's a technical fact, even though
it later went away. As for those who remember no such era of early
loving life together, there is still the possibility that you both could
learn to discover whether that love for each other can actually happen in
there in each of you, or not. If that's not the case, other factors have
to be considered in deciding what to do about it.
In past years I've often maintained the radical idea that the only reason
for a marriage (or any loving and intimate relationship), is to be sweet
to each other.
Here's the exercise I'd like to recommend, for girls who are exploring
this ordinary, widely normal marital situation, where we obviously see a
Step Three is to practice waking up in awareness as much as you can when
you are in the company of your husband, and make the best effort you can
(falling asleep and waking up and falling asleep, and waking up, and so
on) to spot it happening when you honestly feel a feeling of tenderness
love in your heart for your husband.
Now, there will either be such times, or there won't. Yet, if there are
even a few such times, a great deal of healing can come out of this.
Whenever you notice you feel that girlish tender feeling for the guy, be
awake enough to take it upon your being to get up, go over to your
husband, and make some kind of a tender, loving gesture, or say something
sweet to him.
Notice, this is not to be some artificial gesture or fake propaganda you
are telling him. That wouldn't work out so well. These gestures are to
be done only in those present moments when you wake up and realize that
you are actually feeling tender and loving towards the guy. Maybe it's
something he said, or something he did, or some cute look on his face.
Have this gesture of sweetness be sincere when you make it.
This suggestion is coming out of my observations of my own experiences
and those of couples I have worked with directly. It has seemed to me
for years that a spontaneous gesture of sincere sweetness is the most
powerful gesture of all if one is intentionally seeking to rekindle the
kind of tenderness and passions that a couple once knew together in the
past, or perhaps to kindle such loving feelings for the first time
Such gestures are especially relevant because, as a man, I've observed
over the decades that the romantic factor that best feeds a man's nature
to be tender and loving with their wives is gestures that she makes
during the days of being sweet to him and showing him that she is picking
him to be her man. This can inspire him to be in the mood.
Maybe you women are in a position to say that the same thing is true for
you. Little gestures of sweetness turn you on, too, I bet. Over the
decades I've been telling students that I think the only purpose of
marriage is to be sweet to each other. If that's going on regularly and
they've got that sweetness going together again, maybe the rest of it all
can start taking care of itself. Well . . . . . I'm a romantic; let's
In an argumentative marriage, or in a withdrawn marriage there may be
some other issues that need to be worked with awarely. But if you are
using your awareness by taking these three steps I recommend, you are 1)
recognizing the places where stresses are coming up and you are stepping
aside from making things worse by attacking the other at those times, so
it is becoming harder and harder to draw you into an argument; and, 2) if
you feel certain in your heart that you really would like another chance
for the two of you to be in love; and 3) if you are mindfully practicing
sharing your sweetness with him when you know that feeling of tenderness
is coming up real in you . . . . . then, be a little patient, and see
what you see.
Well . . . . . that's my coaching plan for starters. Let me know when
you need to fill me in on something or have questions. Trust your own
instincts. Practicing awareness daily, you may come up with much better
steps than I do that more precisely fit the nature of your real
Good luck to those brave souls who will try out such bold moves as these,
and keep watching patiently for awhile to see what happens. Remember
you're in there behind those eyes.
P.S. Regarding that old question on the board about whether that "group"
we were talking about is *real* and *can work* I would say that what I am
looking at here lately on this new board now appears more like "a real
group" than I have ever seen in Classroom Talk before. This kind of
openness, gentle interest in one another, and authentic personal sharing
is what makes "a group" a group to me. So we can see that for at least a
little while now, such a group is at least technically feasible! Hooray
for us, Team! So let's see what we can go on learning from this, if
anything. The group only really exists for a time in whatever we shall
actually make of it.