The Finger Burn that Showed Me Love, Struggle, and Growth
I burned three fingers from a tea kettle while I was boiling hot water. The finger that got impacted the most was my ring finger, the one where I wear an engagement ring. I chose to look at this as a new beginning. My fiancé and I started our engagement courtship on rocky grounds. Even though we knew each other for over 20 years and dated for several of those years, we didn’t know each other intimately. No one really does until they spend a lot of time with each other.
Then as a couple in love, when you’re seriously planning to spend the rest of your lives together, there’s a shift inside our mind and bodies, where a switch turns on overnight that seems to appear out of the air. It’s characterized by starting to have arguments or disagreements.
Then it becomes circumstances dealing with each other’s inner selves underneath the mask you see when you’re dating. It’s almost like reality just kicked in, that this could be the person you will want to make decisions with for the rest of your life, so we better get on the same page on things that really matter to us. And your partner is thinking the same thing.
We then wrestle with one another, trying to dominate and negotiate the other in thought and consequences on these matters. These matters could be on thousands of topics, including habits, hobbies, family, communication styles, finances, relationship boundaries, career choices, or how we handle specific social situations.
And through that process, if we still exist after the struggle, then we become closer as we’ve bonded and made it through “the difficult times” or power struggle.
How do you master the power struggle?
If you are the one being asked to change, step back from the situation and be introspective. It is one of the best ways to get a real look into the reflective mirror your partner is showing you, that is your partner’s perceived lack of you and how you and your thinking don’t measure up to their ideal or expectation.
The mature person sees that there’s some truth in what is in the mirror even if it’s not one hundred percent or even five percent correct. At the very least, this is how your partner perceives it so something needs to be done in order to peacefully co-exist.
The natural tendency for the one feeling attacked, is to defend back. The first thought is not usually, “is there something I need to change about me?” Stripping away the layer of pride and stubbornness that lies on the surface is the objective way to consider the ideas that are brought to your attention.
You could ignore a situation, but it will probably rear its ugly head again in the future, and then you’ll have to deal with it again, so better to “nip it in the bud” and face it head on now. It will be some kind of confrontation that can be brought into a casual or more deep conversation.
Deep down we are complicated beings. We have experiences that have made us see the world the way we do. As evolving beings, some of this “past” serves us, and some of this does not (“baggage”).
It doesn’t matter how old you are. We learn that none of us are perfect and whole, and that there’s always room for growth and refinement. And sometimes it takes time for an area to grow within us. You don’t learn patience by immediate change. You learn patience by waiting, and gradual change.
For the instigator, it’s best to not attack the other person and do find the right way and time to say what you need to say. Instead of using extreme words like “always” or “never”, use words like “sometimes”, and cite specific examples so the other person can fully understand what you are saying.
Focus on the undesired behavior or thoughts, and not the person’s inabilities (no one wants to be knocked down, as life in itself can be challenging enough). You don’t want to increase the other’s defensiveness (“fight or flight” response).
Enter the conversation with the goal of finding solutions. Sometimes conversations get heavy and it takes several conversations. Agree to disagree in the way that works for the two of you. The wisest advice is not to react negatively (like a child does), but to allow time for thoughts to come in, and settle. Then come back to the conversation with a fresh mind.
New ideas need time and space to settle in, especially if it’s a new concept for one or both of you. And even if the other person initially resists, it is still a good idea to keep presenting ideas and solutions. It helps in the long term, as the other person’s open-minded brain will take in your ideas, despite what has been said or hurled your way in the moment.
If you say nothing, you will be sure of one thing, you will gain nothing.
Sometimes you have to decide when is a good time to bring up a topic, as problems stem from core issues and tend to keep cropping up in many different situations, until they are resolved. When you bring up the potential problem, you may be pleasantly surprised, that the other person may later agree or come up with a better solution based on what has been laid out.
For short and long term growth, we want to come up with new solutions for differences we have, and how to approach them in communication and action. All the while, accept the other person for who they are, their daily habits and likes and dislikes. It’s up to the other person to change if they want to.
Our goal isn’t to change each other, but to find solutions to the best “us”. Embrace that you are two separate people who want to love and do life together, so daily forgiveness and grace is necessary for thriving.
Progress can be measured by how you handle similar situations where you once had differences in the past.
Unless you are faced with a deal breaker situation (like you don’t see any growth ever) to your relationship, don’t let temporary differences and setbacks affect how you see your partner overall.
Try to look at problems as a potential way to get closer to one another and grow in the end. Think of the light at the end of the tunnel. Find a different positive way to perceive a bad situation, as something will eventually emerge given enough space and time.
Like my finger burn, where beneath my marred and painful engagement ring finger, is a new youthful layer of skin starting to birth its way to the surface.