A few weeks back an issue came up that centred around a stock pot in the kitchen. We use this particular pot to boil dish rags since just washing them is not effective; just like grandma did back in the 20th century. I had washed it earlier and set it aside. A bit later I picked it up to use it for making turkey soup and Sue, being concerned that I might be considering using a dirty pot to make the soup in, asked if it had been washed. Now that kind of question used in this type of situation is almost guaranteed to provoke an indignant response from any man; after all my mother did teach me the importance of cleanliness. In her defence though I must say that it is possible that I might, possibly, perhaps, kind of, use a dirty pot for cooking (another story for another time), so instead of taking offence at her questioning me I simply told her that I had indeed washed it. Enough said, case closed. Well, from her perspective my truthful response; from my perspective, was not accepted and an argument emerged. “Here we go again” I thought to myself, “what am I missing here, why can’t she accept the truth”?
She could not and would not accept the truth because my truth was not her truth. She was seeing things from her perspective; not mine, so needed to go with what she was thinking and feeling about the issue; her truth. In the argument I took the approach of “my truth IS the truth since I know I washed the pot, so end of discussion”. It made complete sense in my mind to stand up for myself the way I did even though it left Sue angry, upset, and withdrawn.
The problem though was that we were actually arguing over a symptom of something much deeper but were not aware of it in the moment. So what if I had not stopped, as I so often do, at the symptom we were arguing over? What if I had instead gone further and considered that she was actually upset over something much deeper than a simple pot? What I see now is that the stance I took focused on the pot, rather than the chronic underlying problem of her trust issues; the source of many past and potentially future arguments. If I had gone past the symptom of the pot without arguing and instead supported Sue’s process by focusing on the root problem of trust then the pot issue would have naturally resolved itself. Sue and I also would have discovered more about ourselves and each other during the process and benefitted immensely. So the issue was never about the pot! My holding strong in my truth and facing her down was the real issue.
No argument has ever been resolved by taking sides and fighting until someone wins or gives in; this just builds resentment, mistrust, and distance. The only way to find real and lasting resolution is to find the root of the issue under the surface and work together to clear it. It may be painful, scary, and emotionally draining to do it but it will lead to a deeper, more trusting, more loving, and more fulfilling relationship in the long run.
Now let's have some Turkey soup shall we? I'll let you wash the pot though.