Stop. Shift. Start
All Too Quickly The Claws Came Out
We had just arrived at one of our favorite restaurants, in one of our favorite cities (Wild Ginger in downtown Seattle), and for seemingly NO reason and certainly no GOOD reason, we started to get short with each other.
And all too quickly the claws came out.
I was thinking (in a very blaming tone) “Well there goes that romantic dinner we were so excited to have!”
When just then Raj interrupted our out-of-our-minds-upset and said “STOP!”.
Not in a nasty way. More like… “Ah-ha! I just realized something important!”
He caught my attention and slowed my reaction juuuuuust long enough for him to explain.
“We did the work to decide who we want to be with each other, how we want to behave, what we want our relationship to look like. We even have 12 wedding vows that paint a clear picture of what we SAY we want.
Let’s go back to that, can we please? Let’s stop what we are doing. It’s not us. Let’s shift out of this mess and into how we want to be and start again. Can we do that PLEASE?!”
Stop. Shift. Start
He drew it on a cocktail napkin.
As soon as I saw those 3 Ss, it all made sense.
And fighting seemed really silly and out of alignment with our true goals for our relationship and our lives.
Imagine you’re in an upset and it’s escalating.
The tension mounts with every ping-pong exchange.
Just when there’s no end in sight, one of you remembers how you SAID you wanted your relationship to be AND you can see that at the moment, NEITHER of you are living into that commitment.
You WANT to pull out of it, but you don’t know how. You WANT to get closer to your beloved and resolve it, but you don’t want to “give in”.
And in the moment, you certainly don’t have the words to communicate your vision for your relationship when you are still hooked by the upset of the moment.
This is a PERFECT time to call “Stop. Shift. Start.”
It’s shorthand for something like…
We’re committed to having a loving supportive relationship. I care about YOUR experience and OUR happiness. I am hooked right now, still I have one big toe in our vision over our victim-hood. I’m willing to stretch to step into our commitment to our relationship vision. Will you please meet me there?
Hard to say all that, especially when you’re still mad. Still it leaves an opening, a crack in the ice, that when embraced, leaves no chance for you staying “stuck in the muck.”
Said another way… “Let’s STOP fighting.” Let’s SHIFT out of this default dynamic and START a more loving dynamic by design. Stop. Shift. Start
To add some flair, Raj and I will pretend we are throwing a flag on the play and even make the sound of blowing a whistle. “I call Stop. Shift. Start.”
Just be sure that if your partner has enough wisdom, sanity and courage to call Stop. Shift. Start. – YOU actually DO IT! Take the olive branch.
Being the first to offer an olive branch (or a rope out of the quicksand), can be difficult to do.
DO IT ANYWAY.
It takes courage, risk and vulnerability. Still, as Relationship researcher John Gottman says “Don’t be afraid to be the person who loves more.”
While it is hard to offer one, it can also be hard to accept an olive branch when you’re triggered and upset.
DO IT ANYWAY.
Failure to embrace the olive branch when offered to you, no matter how small or imperfect it is, is another nail in the coffin of any chance you had at having a playful, peaceful, passionate, P3 Relationship.
One of Raj and my wedding vows is “I promise to breathe deep, get “off it” first and give, especially when it’s difficult.”
To take the high road and give, even when you feel you are TOTALLY in the “right”, can be so challenging.
Still the alternative is a disconnected, unappreciated, angry devolving mess.
The benefits to biting the bullet, being compassionate rather than critical, will make the difference that makes your relationship wonderful. And wonderful is WORTH it!
Stepping out of escalating and into de-escalating is a courageous act. Reward your partner for doing so by meeting them there. And, stretch to offer the olive branch yourself next time.
Foster and celebrate this kind of behavior and it grows.
Keep the Fights Clean & the Sex Dirty and Save Being Nasty For Your Sex Life!
1. First, sit down, preferably with your beloved when you are in a happy and healthy state of mind, and write our 2-3 sentences on how you both agree that you want to be with each other. What are the behavioral "touchstones" that you want to return when you are upset and beginning to "lose it" a bit?
2. Second, put the sentence you wrote in a place where you can easily find them. It might be on a post-it note in the bathroom, a piece of paper in your wallet, or even an image on your phone, possible even on your main screen so you'll see it every day.
3. Finally, the next time you experience any friction with you partner, when you have even a glimpse of wanting to climb out of the upset and into intimacy again, then tighten up, pretend to blow a whistle, "throw a flag on the play" and call "Stop. Shift. Start." Do NOT act like you are calling a timeout for them! Instead make it into a playful invitation they will want to say YES to.
4. Then pull out what it was you wrote that you wanted to do and read it aloud to each other. Each of you take one immediate action that steps into that vision you created when you were your more sane selves.
Your Ally in Aiming for Awesome,
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