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menu/ END THE CYCLE OF ABUSE
By Bill Ferguson

You can divorce as friends - maybe save your marriage!

Love by itself is never enough to have a relationship work. The divorce courts are full of people who love each other. If you want your relationship work, you need to make sure the other person actually feels loved.

This is true whether you stay together or get a divorce. To the extent you have the experience of love in your relationship, your relationship will be supportive and relatively effortless.

You create the experience of love by giving the gift of acceptance and appreciation. Just look at how you feel when someone genuinely accepts and appreciates you. Doesn't this feel great? Of course it does.

You feel better about yourself and better about your life. You also feel better about the person who accepts and appreciates you. Automatically, you become accepting and appreciative in return.

Now notice how you feel when someone is non-accepting towards you. Notice how you feel when someone is critical of you or tries to change you. Notice how fast the experience of love disappears.

Instantly, you get hurt. You get upset and close down. You put up your walls of protection and automatically become non-accepting and critical in return.

Then the other person gets upset, puts up his or her walls of protection, and becomes even more non-accepting towards you.

Then you get even more upset. Your walls of protection get stronger and you become more critical of the other person.

Then that person gets more upset and becomes more resentful of you. Then you become more hateful towards the other person. Without knowing, you create a cycle of conflict, a cycle of resisting, attacking and withdrawing from each other. This cycle of conflict then destroys your relationship and produces tremendous suffering.

If you have any relationship that isn't working, this cycle is present. If you want to heal your relationship and end the conflict, you need to end this cycle.

Fortunately, all it takes is one person.

The cycle of conflict is like a tennis volley. Two people are needed to keep the cycle going. Only one is needed to end it. When one person stops playing the game, the cycle is over.

You stop playing the game when you give acceptance and appreciation instead of being critical and resentful.

To make the shift from criticalness to acceptance, you need to let go of your resistance. You can do this by taking the following steps:

1. Find and heal the hurt that has been reactivated by the other person Ultimately, the reason you are non-accepting is because the other person has reactivated some hurt in you. As you heal this hurt, the need to resist disappears. You can then interact in a way that creates love instead of destroying it.

2. Give the person full permission to be the way he or she is Notice that the other person is the way he or she is whether you like it or not. Your feelings are totally irrelevant. Hating the way someone is doesn't change a thing. That person is still exactly the way he or she is. When you fight the truth of how someone is, you fuel the cycle of conflict and you lose your ability to see what needs to be done. When you are at peace with the way the someone is, you see your situation clearly. You can see what needs to be done and you can do it in a way that is supportive.

3. Forgive the person When you resent someone, a big part of you closes down. You become bitter and lose your ability to love. You also interact in a way that automatically creates opposition and resistance against yourself. Forgiveness is not for the other person, forgiveness is for you.

4. Let the person go When you hang on to someone, you push the person away. The person feels suffocated and has to fight for breathing room. Just look at how you feel when someone hangs on to you. To have any relationship work, you have to be willing to lose the person.

5. Accept full 100% responsibility for the loss of love Relationships are not 50/50. They are 100/100. Each person is 100% responsible for the presence or absence of love in a relationship. Once you see your 100% responsibility for the loss of love, you can no longer blame the other person. You also become more effective in all your future relationships.

6. See that you are just like the other person Any characteristic that you can't stand in another person is an aspect of you that you can't stand in yourself. Once you discover that this characteristic is also in you, your resistance towards the other person gets replaced with compassion. You also become more at peace with yourself.

7. Get with the person and clean up your relationship Once you let go of your resistance towards someone, the next step is to get with the person and clean up your relationship. Tell the person that you've had some major self-discoveries and that now you're interacting in a new way.

Take full responsibility for what happened and ask the person to please forgive you. If you have been hanging on, give the person freedom to leave.

Say whatever you need to say to clean up your relationship. Then follow your statement up with action. Make sure the other person always feels loved, accepted and appreciated.

Every time you interact with someone, you will either create love or destroy love, and whatever you give will come right back.

So put the focus on ending the conflict and restoring the love, not necessarily as husband and wife, but as one human being to another.

As you do this, you will heal both your relationship and your hurt. You will also create a life that is a lot more enjoyable.

For fast results, have an Individual Telephone Consulting Session with Bill Ferguson or a member of his staff. This can be done by telephone or in person.

© 1999-2001 Bill Ferguson

stop arguing + start talking

Do you find yourselves getting stuck in arguments that take you round and round in circles? Feels like you're playing the same old record? Findings from a Relate/Candis survey reveal that for most couples, arguments are a normal part of everyday life.

Although often painful and unpleasant, it seems quarrels are unavoidable. But the good news is that disagreements donít have to end in hostile silence or a screaming match - try these techniques.

why do you argue?

The survey uncovered some common triggers for rows:

- Money; - Sex; - Untidiness; - Disciplining children;- Housework; - Parents; and - Friends.

Itís not hard to see why disagreements flare up over these issues, but next time you launch into a well-worn slanging match about how much money your partner ran up on the credit card bill, stop and think.

Is it really money youíre arguing about?

Susan Quilliam, in her book Stop Arguing, Start Talking, says that an argument is many-layered, like an onion - and certainly it can end in tears.

The outer layer is the issue you are actually talking about. Deeper layers tap into other areas, and understanding these can help you work out why rows sometimes escalate out of all proportion to the original problem. Think about:

- Your physical feelings Stress or tiredness can intensify a fight;

- Other peopleís input Your friends think your partner is self-indulgent, fuelling your anger;

- What money represents to you If your partner spends without your agreement, you feel robbed of power, and afraid of what else might happen;

- Your childhood If money was always tight maybe you are still uneasy about spending, even if cash is available; and

- Underlying emotional issues Are you using this argument as an excuse to express anger about other issues you have with your partner?

when you canít stop arguing

If your conflict is rooted in intractable problems, it may be hard, or even impossible, to alter the pattern. If you recognise any of these factors, you need to find support and help, whether from friends, family or counsellors:

- Your lives are moving in totally different directions; - Alcoholism, drug addiction or other problems feature in your relationship; - One of you is having an affair; - One of you no longer loves the other, or has actually decided to leave; and- When you just canít stop arguing.

One of the most serious outcomes of arguing is when couples come to blows. If physical violence is a feature of your relationship, you need to seek help urgently.

Contact Women's Aid, your local branch of Relate, or read this page for further information.

Your local social services may have a domestic violence unit which will be able to offer you assistance and protection.

how you argue

There are as many ways of having an argument as there are couples who argue. Perhaps you use the drip-drip technique of persistent nagging, or give in resentfully, making it clear you are acting under sufferance.

You may feel deeply threatened by arguments, and react with hostility and anger.

Or perhaps you hate conflict so much that you will avoid it at all costs. All these patterns are very common, but all of them can be unlearned.

patterns of rows

American research has shown that how couples argue predicts accurately which ones will divorce. There are four highly destructive patterns, and if you recognise any of these you need to take immediate steps towards change.

  1. STONEWALLING Total withdrawal and refusal to discuss the issue. Partner feels unvalued and unheard.
  2. CRITICISM Commenting negatively on the otherís behaviour, over and above the current problem. ĎYouíre always so forgetful.í Partner feels attacked and threatened.
  3. CONTEMPT Sneering, belligerence or sarcasm. "You think youíre so clever." Partner feels humiliated and belittled.
  4. DEFENSIVENESS Aggressively defending and justifying self to partner. "You havenít got a clue just how much I have to remember every day." Partner feels attacked. Row escalates.

changing the way you tackle rows

Think about the ways you and your partner argue, then think about how you would like to change these. Notice how easily you slip into familiar routines of arguing, almost without thinking.

By all means talk this over with your partner, but if that feels too difficult, go ahead and start changing away. Your partnerís reactions will alter in response to yours.

What you are aiming for is the Ďwin-winí style of disagreeing, where no one feels that they have lost. In this style: partners outline their own needs listen to each otherís needs talk flexibly about solutions that give each of them enough of what they want.

six steps to handling arguments constructively

If you want to raise a tricky topic with your partner, start the discussion amicably. Donít go in with all guns firing, or with a sarcastic or critical comment. For instance, in the example of overspending, say, "Can we talk about the credit card bill - we need to work out a spending limit that suits us both," and not, "Iím furious about that bill - why do you go over the top every time?"

Try to understand your partnerís reactions, and remember that you are not just arguing about the "surface" problem. If your partner says, "Just let me take care of the money, will you?", remember that in his childhood his father controlled all household affairs.

It will need careful and sensitive negotiation over a period of time, to alter this pattern of expectations. Respect your partnerís views, even if you are annoyed. Instead of saying, "Iím not a child!" try: "I know itís important to you to feel able to spend as and when you like, but I need to have a say in how our money is used, too."

take responsibility for your own emotions

- Why you are so upset? - Has something from the past been stirred up by this latest row? - Do you fear loss of control in other aspects of your life?

Saying, "You make me so angry!" places the blame for your feelings squarely on to your partner. Yes, his or her behaviour may have triggered your feelings, but their depth may have little to do with the current problem.

Keep tabs on physical feelings, which warn you if you are close to losing control.

A knot in the stomach, breathlessness, tears, all spell trouble. Leave the room, and take time to calm down.

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