There is a lesson I ‘learned’ from a relationship I was in many many years ago that has stuck with me ever since, and I have turned it into one of my core relationship counseling tools.
What this lesson basically breaks down to is a deal. You could regard it as a sort of contract between yourself and your partner[s]. The contract states that neither of you will ever be consciously ‘coming after’ the other. It means that neither of you will EVER do or say ANYthing to the other intentionally designed to wound, or hurt, or tweak, or trigger, AT ALL.
This includes EVERY single instance where you are inclined to play the tit for tat game: they did this that time so I’ma do this right now.. nuthin major, just enough to trigger them a lil bit, let em know how it feels. As well as the greater times, when one or both of you are hurt, and you lash out at eachother, say and/or do horrible things, irrevocable things, and then find yourselves with an aftermath that is a trust shattered between you, and scarring that the relationship may very well not survive.
Enter the contract. By agreeing to never be ‘coming for’ the other, you are agreeing to do several things:
First you are agreeing to immediately check in with yourself the MINUTE you feel hurt or insulted or triggered. The reasoning behind the check-in being that you KNOW your partner didn’t do whatever was done on purpose. You know this only because of your trust in your partner, and their adherence to the contract. So whatever just triggered you, or registered as painful then must be coming from inside..you. This is not to say that it is impossible to be hurt by something someone has done accidentally; however, the fact that it was an accident automatically changes our reactions to it, forces us not to resort automatically to a fear/anger-based response and instead, legitimately look into ourselves to see what the true cause was/is.
Second, you are agreeing, just after your internal check-in, or perhaps even during, to present your being triggered to your partner as a something you’re about to have to dive into.. This is NOT to say, you point the finger and blame them for wrongdoing. Quite the opposite in fact. What you’re actually doing is letting them know something they just did had an effect on you, AND you are about to dig in TO YOURSELF to figure out why it had that effect and how it was related to what they did. Most times, it has nothing to do with what was done, and everything to do with an experience you had at some point in the past that you directly associate with specific things- these things are now triggers for those associations. Once you go back, have a look at those things, you can begin the healing process around shifting not what happened [ because obviously that cannot be changed ] but how you frame what happened. What you have made that experience, or those experiences mean. Now, this goes into a whole other conversation in terms of methods for dealing with past trauma and/or unpleasant experience, but in terms of this conversation, what you and your partner are creating is a safe space where a lot of ordinary slights, tiffs, spats, etc.. simply will not occur because of the level of integrity the two of you are maintaining with each other on a daily basis in the form of no tit for tat.
Thirdly, when something does arise, because of the level of trust you have established, and the safe space you have created, you can voice your experience of an event or action and search for the true roots of your reactions, without pointing the finger at your partner, and without feeling attacked by your partner. You’ve also prevented the creation of a situation where somebody is apologizing just to make you feel better when in actuality they have no real idea what they’re apologizing for- AND they now feel as if they have to step carefully around this subject, or that choice of words, or that action, etc. etc.. which can ultimately lead to the erosion of all the basic building blocks for your relationship, while letting you off the hook for actually having to deal with anything that you are at cause for.
Let me assert that you absolutely CANNOT employ this lesson unless you are willing to abide by it. What this translates to is that you’ve gotta be one hundred percent willing to be honest with yourself to a degree you may not be used to. This goes for the both of you [ or however many of you are involved in the contract. let me not assume:) ]. Because it forces you away from the traditional response of ‘you did something and it hurt me’, and into a place where you are forced to ask the question of yourself -“what am I actually being triggered by and where is that coming from?”
Because we as human beings are capable of slipping, you’re also going to have to be willing to admit, both to yourself and to your partner, when you have violated the contract and done something intentionally to jab that person. You’ll have to do it as SOON as you realize it, and you’ll have to take FULL responsibility for it. This also serves to strengthen the bond of trust between you as it is recognized and acknowledged that you will police yourselves, and therefore you will take the contract seriously- leading to increased trust and integrity all round.
Again, I must stress, that you absolutely should not enter into this agreement with anyone if you do not trust yourself or your partner to carry through with it. BUT.. If this is the case, I strongly invite and encourage you to look into that, and to ask yourself why it would be okay [ in your world ] to be in a relationship with someone you couldn’t trust to not try to harm you, or that you could not trust yourself not to try to harm.
Definitely something to think about at the very least..