Conflict is part of any romantic relationship, whether you’re dating, married, or whatever else it is that millennials do.
But, despite the zillions of romantic comedies that come out every year, it’s hard to know how to argue with your partner in a way that’s actually constructive.
In a recent interview with Tech Insider, reformed pickup artist Neil Strauss, author of “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists,” and the new book “The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships,” gave us a helpful tip about what to stay away from.
“If you ever feel better than the other person, you’re regressing to an adolescent state,” Strauss says. “If you feel less than them, [it’s] like you’re regressing to a childhood state.”
Strauss is referencing the psychological idea of ego state regression. Basically, it’s a Freudian theory that says we’re not just one self — instead, we have an adult self, an adolescent self, and a child self. The teenager and the kid tend to come out when things get emotional.
When you’re sliding into childlike regression, you might find yourself thinking:
• They think I’m not valuable.
• They don’t get me.
• They don’t understand me.
When it’s adolescent, it’s more:
• God, how can I live with that?
• They’re always like this.
• I’m trying to change them.
• They need to be better, more like me.
In other words, if you find yourself in a place of “less than” or “more than” the other person, you’re probably regressing.
This is a problem, Strauss says, because when you’re regressing like that, you’re not in a healthy relationship; you’re either trying to become the parent or making the other person become the parent.
When that happens, you get away from the reality of situation — that both of you are equal.
One helpful lifehack is to use “the story I’m making up” to frame your narrative. If your partner is being distant, you might say “The story I’m making up is that you’re not interested in me,” which would give them a chance to explain that they were trying to think through something that happened in their workday.
To Strauss, the point is to give yourself — and your partner — equal footing.
“You can’t relate while you’re standing on a pedestal, and you can’t relate while you’re putting them on a pedestal,” Strauss says.
“I think the bottom line is though, and I just go off my own experience, I know that when I’m not doing these things, I’m happier, my wife Ingrid is happier,” he says. “We feel good.”
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