A struggle that comes up for many relationships time and time again is how to move through conflict to a place of understanding. Either the conflict is just too hard and it’s easier to withdraw until it blows over, or the issue is just so important that we need to make the other understand and we can’t let it go until there’s resolution.
I’d never heard of the term ‘loving inquiry’ until my partner Avalon mentioned it openly on facebook. Then a couple of friends asked me to paint a bit of a picture of how a loving inquiry works when there is conflict in relationship. This got me thinking and I realised there are some key parts that are so important to enable intimate relationships to really thrive and grow into their potential. More so they are keys for thriving as individuals within relationships.
While there are a few different ways I may mindfully interact with my partner while there is tension in the air, I do use a loving inquiry to cut through the pain to the heart most often. To do this, we need to be mindful of our intent and how open we are to hearing what lays beyond the pain someone is experiencing. It is not about who is right or wrong, or trying to confront your lover – this perception will have the inquiry off-track from the start. It is about heartfelt connection in uncomfortable places.
Before I head into any more conceptual descriptions, lets take a concrete example of what it can look like.
A common long term relationship conflict that comes up is between financial freedom and inclusion. This is where say, one person is spending money without informing the other and the other person is wanting to be included in financial decisions. I’m not talking about a $5 takeaway coffee, more in the realm of significant spending according to income.
There is nobody right or wrong in this situation. Relationship conflicts are more often than not, simply an indicator there is a need for connection and understanding. Keeping this in mind right from the start, the person who raises a concern is able to come from a place seeking understanding rather than being confronting.
Let’s say the person wanting inclusion confronts the other by saying “I can’t believe how much money you have spent on those shoes, what are you thinking?!!”, or lovingly inquires “Hey sweetheart, I am feeling upset today about how much money was spent on those shoes, and I’d like to understand more how we can communicate what is financially important to each other. Are you ok to have a chat about this with me today?” There is no guess which is a more successful approach.
I have heard this is easier said than done.
So what does it take to make a loving inquiry?
Self-awareness and honesty
It takes self-awareness and being ruthlessly honest with ourself to know when communicating without a need to be right and making the other wrong in anyway. While our perceptions can easily be clouded by past experiences and perceived threats, or situational triggers, we do know when we are feeling open and in our heart. We need to be lovingly honest with ourself first, if making a loving inquiry while we are not feeling open in our hearts is an indicator the loving part of the inquiry is lost.
Willingness to connect vulnerably
It takes vulnerability to stay open and talk about something that might be sensitive. This can come with acceptance of what is in front of you. There is nothing you can do about what has already happened, resolution is about understanding and connection. While seeking resolution bring your own values to the table to be communicated without imposing them on the other. Simply say “here I am in this picture as I currently understand myself.”
Recognise the value of difference
It takes recognition for the value of difference, so much of our culture is thrown into confusion about this. Nature thrives on diversity, yet we are taught to value ‘sameness’ and homogenisation – it doesn’t take much to see problems with this in our relating as a culture of beings (warring genders, religions, nations, races, politics etc). So if there is not an openness to personal differences a loving inquiry is going to be influenced. Personally, it is some of the differences in my partner that I find most attractive. With this understanding it is easier to hold a loving inquiry with an openness to understanding and to support the other on their own unique personal growth journey – for the other to be beautifully their self.
Relationship trust and purpose
It takes building healthy relating patterns into relationships grounded in purpose to enable loving inquiries to serve with ease. It can be quiet a surprise to many couples to find they have little clarity on the purpose of their relationship. I am talking about a purpose that goes beyond what we find in friendships like companionship, warmth, connection and even sex. Being clear about what is so different about an intimate relationship and the purpose can really help with understanding each other. In other words, the purpose of annoying each other habitually generally does not warrant a desirable reason for being in relationship.
Trust is something that can grow or deteriorate in a relationship. The more trusting our patterns of communicating and relating the more intimacy and growth can be shared. The juiciest of trust is built up through many shared experiences of ‘uncomfortable’ yet expansive conversations. In my relationship we can even be so angry tears come to the eye and while feel open hearted at the same time. There is enough trust to be in our most raw of emotions.
When communicating about something sensitive there is trust from past experiences that receiving loving inquiry resolves with a deeper understanding of each other and more intimacy…. and amazing incredible sex seems to be a welcomed side effect. This is a healthy relating pattern. When I am in the uncomfortable place of being seen to be acting immaturely or in ways that are defensive, rude, righteous and Avalon my partner loving reflects and inquires, part of me under the defensiveness is willing to see if Avalon has a gift to contribute to my growth and understanding. It helps me to be open when I am feeling distant.
Keeping it simple
It takes the simplicity. All too often conflicts are clouded by over complicating things. Stay with the simplicity of focussing on connection. While someone’s initial loving inquiry may be way off-track, an open hearted reflection enables me to discover new ways of being. It’s about an opening to deeper understanding beyond rights and wrongs. You see when the act of an inquiry is done in a loving way, it doesn’t matter if the inquiry has hit the mark or not.
The power of empathetically laced honesty.
That said, there’s a lot of cultural undoing to get there at times, and I look forward to writing more on the intricacies of healing toward more compassionate communication and relating.