Life is relationships; the rest is just details.
It was a disaster.
Instead of matching our “relational DNA,” I pushed one of his hot buttons (mistake #3). We slid downhill for more than an hour. Then, yes, went to bed mad (mistake #4).
By the grace of God, we patched things up the next morning. But I had learned something: not only did I need to recognize my own core fears, but I’d be smart to learn Jeff’s core fears as well.
In The DNA of Relationships, Gary Smalley says that “Everything in life that truly matters can be boiled down to relationships.” And the problems within our relationships, he says, stem from each person acting out of a core fear.
You are made for three kinds of relationships:
with others, with yourself, and with God.
Smalley says that because most people don’t know what their core fear is, they react badly when that fear button is pushed. He identifies the most common 25 hot buttons and provides his own example online of how this works.
Two of my own core fears [find yours here] that I identified from Chapter Three, “The Dance that Destroys Relationships” are…
1. the fear of feeling helpless, powerless, impotent, or controlled, and
13. the fear of being invalidated, as if my words and actions are being ignored or devalued.
My fight with Jeff last week proved it true.
Generally, the two main primary fears fall along male/female lines:
Males: the fear of being controlled (losing influence or power over others—failing or getting stepped on).
Females: the fear of being disconnected (separation from people and being alone—not being heard, not being valued, somehow losing the love of another).
Smalley offers suggestions for overcoming the relationship “fear dance” of “Hurt, want, fear, react.” Most are very good.
But the suggested wording may need to be tweaked to fit your personality. For example, when I read these statements below to Jeff last night, he laughed; I did, too. I won’t expect these specific words to come out of his mouth any time soon:
“Guys, hear me: If the woman in your life repeats the same thing over and over, I can almost guarantee that she does not believe you understand her heart. You could say at that point, ‘I noticed that you are repeating yourself, and that causes me to question whether you believe I am understanding you. Am I missing something?’”]
More from The DNA of Relationships:
* The external problem is rarely the real problem.
* It’s never just about the other person.
* Ask yourself, the “So what?” question. Ask it several times. Where it leads you may be at the heart of your relationship problem.
* Four Steps to Safety:
1. Respect the wall.
2. Honor others.
3. Suspend judgment.
4. Value differences.
5. Be trustworthy.
* Every upsetting experience is an opportunity to worship God. Ask, How is this thing good for me, and how is it bringing me closer to Christ, making me more loving and more like him?
* The real message is often the emotion beneath the words.
* What builds us up, as almost nothing else can? The sense that we have been genuinely heard and deeply understood.
Identifying your fears and learning to respond differently when your buttons are pushed can lead to healthier, more God-glorifying relationships.
That’s what I want.
And if my discord with Jeff brought me a step closer to that, then now we’re both better off. [But next time, I think I’ll finish the book before I try to practice it.]
I was inspired to read this book after hearing its author Gary Smalley speak about it on “The Focus on the Family” daily broadcast.
For more books read after a recommendation, check out the links at “I Read It.”