It is a well known fact that the most frequent arguments couples have are either about money, sex or parenting. When I have worked with couples, these topics are certainly common and of course, there can be many more.
In the long-term committed relationship we run through a very wide range of feelings both positive and difficult, from extremely subtle to very big as we live our lives together and grapple with all that it brings us.
Different phases of relationship bring us a different mix of both positive and negative stressors that induce arguments. If your relationship is new and you are deciding to marry, you may be facing the stresses of planning a wedding, sharing space together, joining finances, dealing with both old and new relatives, career issues, and children. If you passed those milestones a way back, you may be dealing with a wide variety of other stressors, such as aging parents, your own issues around age or illness, older children, growing in different directions and changing interests, moving, job changes or job loss, financial ups and downs, new wrinkles, and a proliferation of gray hair.
REMEMBER: Stress which often leads to arguments is always experienced in the body, Important Tool: Pay attention to the physical indicators or body signals you get from your body. Our bodies are very often trying to warn us or bring us messages about our own levels of worry, panic, frustration, anger or on the other hand, excitement, pride, desire and joy.
For instance, when feeling centered and connected to yourself, each of us has his or her own personal physical experience of well-being or feeling like we’ve got control of our lives. We may feel clear-headed. We may be breathing fully and naturally and sensing in our bodies that we have the inner strength and ability to stand up to whatever life throws at us.
On the other hand, we also experience various often physically uncomfortable body signals, ignited by stress and our personal histories, that indicate to us that something in our emotional life needs attention.
Here is an example:
Zosia and Bartek are trying to have a talk about money. Both of them have some unconscious fears around money. Zosia grew up in a home in which it was considered rude to talk about money, so she doesn’t like to talk about it at all. In Bartek’s childhood home, people had screaming fights about money and there never seemed to be enough of it. When he needs to talk with Zosia about money, his stomach starts to churn. Zosia’s shoulders get tense and her breathing gets shallow when Bartek mentions money. Their money talks usually go badly even though they are both trying to be nice.
Their bodies, trained since childhood, are screaming fear and discomfort but they aren’t paying any attention to them. On the surface they appear annoyed and irritated but internally they are both feeling more and more physically constricted – their throats feel tight, their breathing is shallow, their hearts are pumping fast, and they are not able to think or even feel clearly. All of this discomfort is generated by their fear around money.
Bartek and Zosia’s body signals are asking them to pay attention to the fear, to acknowledge it as the source of their pain and frustration. If they ignore the fear, the result will be a fight instead of flow.
If they honored their body signals, their conversations might go something like this:
Bartek: :Zosia, wait a minute. I’m having that old tight feeling in my belly, just like I always did when I was a kid and my folks were fighting about money. It’s because we’re talking about money. I know we are not like my folks so just let me get clear that it’s you and me sitting here and maybe we can help each other feel a little more comfortable when we have to talk about money. Let’s deal with that before we try to talk about this specific money issue we’re having.
Zosia: Oh, I’m so glad you said that. Just thinking about it makes my shoulders go up around my ears and I can barely breathe. That’s what we can do- before we even start talking, let’s take a few deep breaths and feel into what our bodies are trying to tell us.
Bartek and Zosia remind each other about what they witnessed in their family homes and can then attempt to talk about money in a different way than their parents did by reflecting the truth of what is really going on inside them. If they keep on bringing their old expectations and patterns up to consciousness, and feeding the desire to have a reasonable and productive talk about their financial problems, they will have a much better chance of having a successful discussion.
We invite you to workshop to strenghten comunication in your relationship.
Ela Carl 02/2019
Elizabeth Szczygielska Carl LCSW, CCEP, EMM, Co-Director of the Core Energetics Polska Institute in Poland is a body psychotherapist who has worked with individuals, couples and groups for the past 30 years. She has co-written the book POWER TOOLS FOR COUPLES