Soothe it, don’t solve it

Have you had this conversation with a partner? (It’s likely that you were either “A” or “B” as this dynamic tends to lend itself to polarization.)

A: We HAVE to talk about money. I was just paying the bills and we’re running out of money. We need a BUDGET!

B: Wellllll….OK. 

A: So let’s start by figuring out how much you’ve been spending.

B: Me? Wellllll…OK. (Looking sheepish.) I did buy some shoes last week online.

A: See, that’s what I’m saying! We didn’t put aside money for you to buy shoes. I thought we’d agreed to talk about any purchase you were going to make!

B: Oh, I know, I know. But they were so [cute/goodlooking/functional]! I’m sorry! I won’t do that again!

A: How many times are you going to make these promises! You never keep them.

B: I’ll try harder.

A: Yeah, well you better. And you better pull your weight around here. I’m sick of always being the one that’s working my ass off.

(Sitting far apart on the couch, they begin to channel surf.)


I  coached two couples recently who were stuck in this dynamic, going around and around about how to solve conflicts around money and who was contributing. Each of the people in the role of “A” sounded frustrated and worn out. The “B”s were ashamed and collapsed. Clearly each couple had gone through some version of this conversation many times, fruitlessly attempting to solve the unsolvable.

What I tuned into during our coaching sessions was how these couples were violating a basic premise of Creative Brain Communication: Don’t try to solve an issue when you’re in Reactive Brain. It took me awhile to catch onto this, as it all seemed so reasonable (and because I’d be there myself so many times). But eventually I could see how “A” sounded angry but really was panicked. And I watched how “B” collapsed under “A”s shaming, moving into placating and making bad agreements.

To move out of this, we practiced “B” staying emotionally (and physically) vertical, breathing and not getting hooked into “A”s blaming. As “B” became more solid, “A” was able to actually get to the truth and describe and feel the panic behind their controlling words. “B” could stay present in the face of “A”s fear, supporting “A” to feel it all the way through. “B” stayed in Creative Brain, and “A” was able to eventually join them there. From the more expanded space that Creative Brain offers, both couples were able to reconnect and begin to talk about what they really wanted.

This dynamic is near and dear to me. I spent years trying to browbeat my partner into dealing with issues about money (or its relations, time and physical energy) my (old) way: Push harder, do more, create more exhaustion, all with some illusion that that mine was the correct strategy. I could not understand why she just wouldn’t bend to my will, but instead insisted on being the creative self that, incidentally, I feel in love with. She put her energy into crazy things like writing, volunteering, caring for our animals, making our house warm and beautiful. My worst moment was, after being “patient” for several months, I finally erupted, shouting “WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE SOME GODDAMN MONEY!”

Since those dark days, I’ve learned a whole lot about co-creativity and appreciation, about how to move Above the Line into Creative Brain and about the tyranny of Reactive Brain. I see now how, all along, I needed to soothe my own fear before I was at all ready to imagine new solutions. I’m happy to say that I finally gave up my old, contracted strategies and adopted my partner’s more expanded view of stepping into possibility and co-creativity. Twenty-seven years into our marriage, we are in flow and easy partnership most of the time, as we generate abundance by doing what we love.


Join me for The (Core) Essentials Retreat, May 15-17. Details and registration here.

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