This new “technology” can save your relationship

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Just connect the EM Forster

In the days before cell phones, these things happened to my husband and me all the time. We were in Harvard Square. He got new glasses and I went shopping. We had agreed to meet at a specific time and place. Just right?

Not for us. The time would come and he wasn’t where he should be and I wasn’t where I should be. We’d both wait and wait. Then we would look around and of course miss each other. Finally, after about an hour of wandering and searching, we found ourselves annoyed as hell and we both said, “Why weren’t you where you should be?”

We were clearly idiots. But just as clearly we were ten years and two cell phones away from never having such a problem again.


The first part of the technology in Why couples fight eliminates power shifts from the conversations you need to solve problems and meet your needs. These power movements are irresistible to almost everyone and destructive wherever they are used.

In principle, unlike the mobile phone itself, this technology is simple:

If I say or do something that makes you feel bullied, pressed, humiliated, frustrated, or disempowered, say, “This is a power move. Do it over. “And I’ll make it over.

If you said, “We need a new car,” and I said, “Oh, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” you would say, “That’s a force move,” and I would say, “Okay, let’s go I’ll try again. Let’s see … I get it! Tell me why you think getting a new car is a good idea. “

Note: We separate with the force movement. We say something that pushes our partner away. Without the force movement, we connect. With the power movement we create bad will. Without the movement of force, we create goodwill.

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a big problem with this new technology. It feels uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Which means it feels wrong.

How can something that is so right feel so wrong?

This is because a couple – even after living together for just a few months, and certainly a couple of years together – has developed a pattern of how they do things. They have carved out grooves for how they work.

Take sex. After the age of exploration comes the age of proven technology. After trying a whole bunch of things, you’ve figured out what works, what doesn’t, what doesn’t, and you’ve got hold of what works. It doesn’t mean that your sex life is necessarily good. It just means you did the best you could to see what worked, and you stick with the results.

What is special about these results – for example, that you are in a sexual groove – is that you are familiar with it. It works out. It’s good enough. When you try new things, they may feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar. So you go back to Old Faithful.

It’s a terrible trap. Maybe not as terrible when it comes to Thursday night meatloaf, but really terrible when it comes to how you solve your problems.

The price you pay for adopting the new power trap breakout technology goes through a phase where your interactions feel slow and stilted. See! Now you know how your grandparents feel when they have to figure out how to zoom! The shoe is on the other foot now, isn’t it?

At least the technology here is as simple as possible. Let me explain that in more detail.

  1. You both agree to do so in the best interests of your relationship.
  2. Whenever you’re working something out, an unmet need, you’re actually saying, “Okay, we’re working something out now, so let’s do the no power move thing.”
  3. If one of you feels like the other has made a force move, point it out and the other – probably a little shocked and confused – says, “Oh! Well, let’s see … ”and try another way.
  4. Rinse and repeat. Keep doing this, awkward and unfamiliar to how it feels, every time one of you has the impression that the other has made a forceful move. Note: The great thing is that you have the opportunity to learn from each other what feels like a force movement to them. It can be revealing!
  5. Beware of feeling like you’re bad at this. You are not! They are just a beginner at not using power moves. Welcome to the club. You are well on your way to getting good at it.
  6. Congratulations on using the latest technology.

What is a power movement? The real answer is that it’s always up to the other person. If your partner feels downcast, offended, humiliated, or disempowered while sighing and rolling their eyes, then this is a force move. It is something that your partner needs to recover from by strengthening himself again. And when he does, you need to strengthen yourself again. That’s the whole problem with this ISHT !!: the way it takes on a life of its own.

It doesn’t matter what our partner’s intentions are. Sighing and rolling eyes can be involuntary! You or your partner could honestly say, “I didn’t want you to feel any of the things that you felt in response to what I did.” Does not matter. If a person feels that it is a force movement, then it is a force movement. Period.

But just to show what the full range of power movements was for the people, here’s just one example (we have pages of examples in our book Why couples fight):

  • Nonverbal actslike putting on an angry face or walking out of the room
  • Vocalizationssuch as sighing, groaning, relating to God (“Oh my God!”) or being silent
  • asklike “Did your sister make you do it?” or “Why do you think you have the right to do so?”
  • Descriptions of youlike “You’re such a baby” or “That was so passive-aggressive.”
  • Threatslike “Do you think I need you? Get real. Not me!”
  • Bullying comments, like “No, you listen to ME!” or yell “You’re driving me crazy !!”
  • Emotional adslike hitting the wall or pounding the couch or getting hysterical
  • exaggeration, like, “I can’t live with those awful green walls any other day. Not another day! “
  • Showing weaknesslike “I have such a headache from it all” or playing stupid
  • Invalidate the other person’s feelings or needs, like “You know you’re not the only person in this family” or “You just think that’s what you want.”
  • Change the subjectlike “That comes straight from your therapist, doesn’t it” or “You always say that.”
  • Just drive yourself crazyLike I’m screaming you to death

I am not saying that these are power movements. They cannot be for you. There are families in which everyone screams and nobody feels disempowered. I am only offering these examples so that you can be honest with yourself about what you and your partner are actually experiencing as a power movement.

Now the crucial, last piece. What do you have left if you pull out your talks without any power movements?

What you wanted all along A simple, easy conversation about

  • What was important to you
  • why it was important to you and
  • how important it was to you.

A conversation in which you heard what the others had to say about it. A conversation that is not driven by the fear of loss or humiliation, but by the desire to connect. The only thing you wanted from the start.

Why couples fight has tons more to say about it. But now you know the basic technology to keep you from ever having a bad connection again.

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This content is provided to you by Mira Kirshenbaum.

Photo: Shutterstock

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