In the last 3 months my husband and I have been in the process of selling our existing condo and buying our first house. We accounted for some anxiety and stress that normally comes with this major purchase—especially in this tough Denver real estate market! BUT, since I am a couples therapist AND I have an excellent marriage with my husband, AND I did EFT couples therapy with him, I was convinced that we would not get stuck in our cycle.
Unfortunately, I forgot one minor thing that I preach to my clients daily… I forgot that when under stress we all default to what we know the best. Under stress, our emotional part of the brain does what it knows how to do best—help us survive WHILE our logical brain is busy making assumptions and judgments. The bottom line was that we both underestimated how this entire process was going to affect US as a couple, AND I forgot that COUPLES THERAPISTS GET STUCK TOO in their relationships!
We realized after the first weekend of house hunting that our goals were quite different. I wanted a new, move in ready duplex. My husband, on the other hand, wanted an older, detached home that needed some work.
Since I was ready to put an offer on the SECOND house we looked at, we started our LONG CONVERSATION about 3 months ago. We never argued. We talked A LOT and ALL THE TIME about the actual HOUSE, and not about what was the meaning behind the house (Despite me preaching to my couples….”it is not about the dishes/chores/kids/HOUSE/content…it is about the meaning and whether or not your partner is able to be available, responsive, and engaged with you even at the times of difference of opinions.”). Ah, things we DON’T remember under STRESS!
After about 2 months into the house hunting process (at that point, I was ready to offer on another two homes!), we started having the right types of conversations! We no longer talked about the house, the house renovations, investments, money, or budgets. We talked about not only the meaning behind our different goals, but most importantly, HOW we were impacting one another knowing that with two different goals one of us will have to compromise.
Granted, our cycle kicked in on a few occasions. How did I know? When I started withdrawing and was getting resentful thinking “it is all about what he wants … my word doesn’t matter!” I knew that the cycle is taking over. Fortunately, we knew our pattern and thanks to our LONG CONVERSATIONS, I was able to remind myself that when I got AFRAID I would say: “Maybe we should have stayed in our condo, and maybe we made a mistake buying what we did.” When my husband wasn’t able to pick up on my fearful feelings (well, because I wasn’t yet able to send him clear and coherent messages!) we would get stuck in a cycle. Ah, cycles … we all have them—regardless of how much we know about them, they still impact us.
What was KEY; however, was that when our cycle started, I was able to label it as that, which would further send a signal to my husband that I was getting scared. From there, he was able to stay present with my fears and me. He was AVALIABLE, ENGAGED, and RESPONSIVE to my feelings and emotions and my longing to feel safe and understood. That did it for me. That ensured me that no matter what house we buy, I have a partner who understands me, supports me, values me and my opinion, and who I feel connected to even at the times when our opinions vary drastically. After seeing over 50 houses, we agreed to buy a house that was closer to what my husband wanted. However, because of the mentioned above reasons, I am on board and extremely excited to move into our new home!
We still catch ourselves in the cycle (his cycle kicks in when he starts feeling guilty for “making me buy this home”). That is completely normal and expected, so I am not worried about that—as long as we are able to talk it out in a way that will pull us closer to each other. In a very interesting way, I am excited that something relatively insignificant such as a materialistic purchase has been teaching us very significant lessons and making our relationship fulfilling and resilient.