When Michael and I argue or have any conflict we have different needs. Most times, I want to be touched and he wants space. Once we understood that about each other we started to learn (with the help of our mentor) how to go about resolving conflict more quickly.
It is completely unnatural for me to give him space. I want to hug him, hold him, and talk to him immediately until we have gotten through whatever it is. For him he finds it unnatural to touch me in those moments. He wants his space to clear his head, feel his emotions, and come back ready to clear the air. Neither approach is right or wrong – just different.
Because we love each other so much and want desperately to be the best versions of ourselves and satisfy the others needs we need to find a way to comfort the other. But what do you do when the comfort they are looking for conflicts with your own needs of comfort?
When Michael comes to me and touches me while I am upset I have to remember that this is the equivalent of him crawling out of the depths of hell to make me feel good. If I give him space, he needs to remember that it feels equally as uncomfortable and causes me the same pain as when he reaches out. With this in mind how do we find a common ground? How can we make it easier for the other to comfort us?
We celebrate the smallest progress.
The first time Michael tried this he reached over to me with the stiffest hand and patted me on the leg. It was the most awkward touch that was not anywhere close to the kind of touch that I was looking for. In that moment every part of my being wanted to stay upset and angry but the stronger part of me knew that this was so incredibly hard for him to do. If I rejected him in that moment of vulnerability, he would probably be terrified to ever try again. Instead I looked at him and thanked him for trying, praised him and let him know how grateful I was. Because of that he became more comfortable to try again and again and again until now he can come to me pull me into his arms and soften my mood just the way I like it (most times lol).
It might seem weird but we are all animals. We need to be conditioned too. When I was in University we worked with lab rats and taught them to push a lever to get a pellet of food. At first if the rat got close to the lever we let out the pellet, then when they touched the lever, and finally only when they pushed the lever down did they get the reward. Michael is much more handsome than the lab rat but him and I work just the same.
This principle can work with any behavior you are looking for. Praise the people you love for even the smallest of things to make them more comfortable doing the behaviors that don’t come naturally to them. If you want someone to work out more? Praise them for taking the stairs instead of the elevator, for going on a walk instead of driving, let them know how sexy their body is looking! Everyone wants to make others happy and proud so praise even the things that are not yet praiseworthy so eventually they will become so.