Is Your Spouse a Training Partner?
If you are thinking of divorce, you may have what I call a "training partner." I learned this from my years of studying Aikido and martial arts. In the dojo, you can't get better unless you have a great training partner.
What is a training partner?
A training partner is a person who most challenges you. The person you feel most frustrated, challenged, angry, hurt, or betrayed by. Along with your spouse, a training partner can be a boss, a co-worker, a child, or a friend. These training partners are here to offer you an opportunity to grow and expand.
Training partners seem to have this unbelievable talent of triggering deep, painful emotions in us. They can make us feel inadequate. They can make us feel so angry and enraged. They can bring out our righteousness. That's what they're there for. It's not a mistake. It's an opportunity to grow.
Victim thinking: taking on the emotions of your training partner
So this is the part that is interesting. When we are with our training partner we can get into what I call "victim thinking." When we are engaging in victim thinking, our attention is on the other person. We can describe everything they are doing and everything they are saying. We cannot describe what is true for us.
For example, I was working with Sally recently. We were talking about her partner Joe. They had just had a big fight. She told me what he said, his angry and defensive tone, and how he stormed out of the room not finishing the conversation. All of Sally's attention was on her partner Joe. She could tell me everything that he was doing and he was doing it to her.
Then I asked Sally what was true for her. She looked at me with a blank stare. I asked her what emotions were happening to her and she couldn't say.
Is it your emotion or your partner's?
After working together, we discovered what was true for her was that she was pissed off. She and Joe didn't spend a lot of time together. We realized she made this mean that she was unimportant. This was a deep, old feeling she carried around with her. It is how she felt with her father growing up. Her father would go off and play sports with her brother without including her. She decided then that she was unimportant.
The important note is that she made it mean that she was unimportant. Her partner, Joe was busy working at a new company. He was spending more hours at work than usual. She could have made that mean all sorts of things. What was hurting Sally was her thinking that she was unimportant. Because Sally felt unimportant and did not want to feel this way, it became easier to focus her attention on Joe.
By focusing her attention on Joe, she did not have to be aware of how she felt. An easy way to cover up that feeling was to feel angry instead. She didn't realize that she came to Joe with anger. Anger covered up the hurt feeling of unimportance. Because she came to Joe with anger, Joe did not listen. He became automatically defensive.
The training partner's gift: Awareness of lessons learned
Joe's gift to Sally was the opportunity to heal the belief that she was not important. Sally got to see that she was the one who was making herself feel this way. He was triggering old thinking in her that could be resolved to a richer state. Once Sally realized this, she could have a conversation with Joe and make a request to spend time together from a place of love instead of a place of hurt and pain. And yes, Joe was way more open to listening and spending time with Sally when approached from a place of love.
I see this kind of situation happen all of the time in relationships. Individuals will begin in a place of "victim thinking." In this place, there is pain and suffering. Once we can bring in curiosity with compassion, we discover the emotions and beliefs that want to be resolved. Once they are resolved, new thinking and clarity can occur, and then there is beauty and magic. Start with trusting your training partner as a gift. You might be surprised at how much this infuriating person can offer you!