Ester Perel says that there are only three things that couples fight about:
- Power and control
- Trust and closeness
- Respect and integrity
She believes that once you view conflict from that awareness, you begin to see that the content isn’t really what people are fighting about. The form – the stuff inside the fight that shapes the content – THAT’S what matters.
When I heard this I felt seen. My partner and I often fight about an issue, feel misunderstood by our counterpart, and then shift from the issue at hand to fighting about HOW we fight. It is so frustrating to us both, and we often find ourselves going in circles.
Seeing our conflict through this lens of a fight for power, trust, or recognition has given me a new perspective on why that is.
I mean, if I’m looking for power or control and not getting it, I’ll keep working to do so. If I don’t feel trust and connection, I will withdraw. And if there is not a sense that my perspective is recognized and respected, I will continue to feel angry, hurt, or misunderstood. Same with him. Round and round we go.
In thinking about this, I started applying these three things at the foundation of conflict to other relationships in my life.
And that’s when it REALLY started to click.
I think these things are at the core of conflict in every relationship, and that’s because these are the things – when we have them – that make us feel accepted and loved.
It’s been proven scientifically (as experiments by Bowlby and others have shown) that our desire to be loved and nurtured is a basic and fundamental human need. Without love, we can feel alone, unimportant, and unhappy. With love we feel connected, supported, and happy.
And guess what? When we are connected, supported, and happy, we are at our best.
“There’s something very full in knowing that your partner accepts you as is.”-Ester Perel
I’ve been wondering how I can work on my relationship with my Self with this awareness. There’s this concept in psychology called incongruence, which basically describes when our ideal self (who we’d like to be) is very different from our real self (who we actually are). We are not in line with our Self internally, and so we feel lost, unsettled, insecure. When our ideal and real selves are more in tune with each other, though, we feel less internal stress and a sense of well-being and peace of mind.
That got me thinking. I combined all of this together and asked:
What if I start viewing my Self as a partner? What if I realized that when I’m in conflict with my Self (when I’m incongruent), it’s because I’m missing power, trust, or recognition within my own being? And how would I feel if I started working on giving my Self these things?
Safe to say I feel like I have so much to work with here. And I am really sitting with it to see what comes up. Today, I’m working with this …
How do I give my Self power? How often do I mistrust my Self and in what ways? How can I recognize and respect all that I am … without reservation or judgement … so that I can accept and love my Self completely?
I offer the same questions to you and invite you to explore.