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The Four Words That Cracked My Marriage Open

– Posted in: Life Coaching
chinatown

 

Above: This marriage is more than just luck.

It was the Fall of 2010. We were packing up after a very relaxing family weekend at a cabin in the woods. Guy, my husband, had done a lot of bike riding, putt-putt golfing, and game playing with our two young kids to give me time to read. I was in Life Coach Training and Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is had been assigned. And thank god. I was inhaling it.

As we loaded up the car, Guy was happily sharing his plans for a smooth Sunday evening transition back into the workweek. My gut clenched. Now was the time to tell him what I had neglected this whole, lovely weekend to tell him: I had made dinner plans with a couple he didn’t like.

I didn’t like them, either, really. But they liked us, and they were kind of the cool couple in town, and, well, I just couldn’t think of a “good” reason to say no to them again.

Guy is easy-going. Even so, I had such a dread of confrontation that I’d made a habit of keeping unpleasant things from him until the last possible minute.

“I told Janice and Ian we’d have dinner with them,” I blurted out and braced myself for defense.

Guy froze. “Why do you do that?”

I remained silent, eyes downcast.

“You always say yes when you mean no,” he went on. “What’s worse is you knew that saying yes to them meant saying no to me.”

I drew in my breath to defend myself, but an idea from Loving What Is came to me that changed everything: when someone criticizes you, particularly someone who knows you well, Katie says, “Listen, then go inside yourself to see what’s true.”

Parroting Katie and hardly recognizing the words coming out of my mouth, I said to Guy, “You may be right.

Guy, who had drawn himself up to his full height and was clearly preparing to unleash a torrent of words, waited a beat, then simply exhaled and returned to his normal size with a puzzled look on his face.

“Wow,” he said. “Thank you.”

It was the first time in our 16 years together that I had just listened, rather than prepared my defense or attack as he spoke.

We stood together in stunned silence. What now?

What now, indeed? We did cancel those plans that night (and made no more with that couple). But more importantly, those four little words, “You may be right,” changed our relationship.

It was the first domino to fall: He knew I would listen, so he started listening to me, too. Because I knew he would listen, I became less afraid of confrontation. As I spoke up with more confidence, he became less reactive.

That moment at the cabin also taught me to trust Byron Katie. Agreeing with her philosophically is one thing. But if the application of one little cast off phrase had such a profound impact on our marriage, what would her process of Inquiry do?

Reader, would you like to find out for yourself?

In the New Year I’ll be offering three group tele-courses using the Work of Byron Katie to heal your most intimate relationships: spouse, child, and family of origin. We’ll start in January with your relationship with your current or former partner.

The beauty of the Work is that it changes you. And when you change, your relationships evolve. Your partner does not need to take the course, too.

I’m offering this because I see you suffer, and I know you don’t have to. I know you don’t have to because I used to suffer, too, until I found the Work.

I’ll be sharing more details in the following weeks – more stories of seemingly magical change that flowed from doing the Work, as well as course specifics. But for now I invite you to adopt the four little words that cracked my marriage open in a way I didn’t even know it needed: “You may be right.”

Say them with sincerity, and they are an offering to your partner that tells him, “I’m listening.” Say them as a placeholder for yourself, while you go inside to find out where he’s right – and where he isn’t. Plant them in the ground between you and be astonished at the intimacy that grows there, in the space where self-defense used to be.

I shared, now you go: what results did you get from this phrase? Please share in the comments!

15 Comments… add one

Kirstin Hotelling Zona October 28, 2016, 6:59 pm

I love this so much! Thank you! ?

Allison Evans October 29, 2016, 7:22 pm

I’m so glad. Thanks, Kirstin!

Lana Kerk McCoy October 28, 2016, 8:17 pm

I learned to say something similar a few years ago during a difficult transition with co-workers: “I may have been wrong about ……” (I noticed it was more of a relief for me to admit I may have been wrong)
I like your statement better for my hubby!

Allison Evans October 29, 2016, 7:21 pm

Thanks, Lana!

Joey Mecham October 29, 2016, 5:00 am

I love this memory — it is ONE of the many reasons I am so proud of you and Guy!!

Allison Evans October 29, 2016, 7:21 pm

Thanks, Mom. :)

rebecca@altaredspaces October 29, 2016, 1:55 pm

You know how much I love marriage. This is such a big moment for you. Thank you for sharing it so openly. Our partners know things about us and can help us grow. “You may be right,” is like opening the door to say, “I choose you again even now when it is uncomfortable for me. Please come into my heart and affect me.” Change me. Grow me. It’s humbling. It’s vulnerable. It’s the soil of deep love.

Allison Evans October 29, 2016, 7:21 pm

I love the way you interpret, “You may be right,” Rebecca! Thank you.

Laura October 31, 2016, 12:39 am

When we stop planning our defense and decide to be vulnerable and open, it’s amazing what conversations can occur. A situation can go from confrontational to one where both people are on the same team, trying to solve the same problem. “You may be right” – magic words, indeed!

Allison Evans November 2, 2016, 7:09 pm

Yes, Laura — and I think Brene Brown would approve, yes? :)

Penny November 2, 2016, 4:08 pm

I have been married for more than 24 years now, and it is very easy to become entrenched in the same roles, attack/defend the same position repeatedly (sorry for the wartime analogies here, they seem somehow aporopriate!). It can be hard to admit we are wrong, or that an opinion or stance we have clung to for a long time may no longer apply, or no longer be fair to the other party. ‘You may be right’ is a powerful comment, and much healthier than ‘you’re right, I’m wrong’, which really sets up more defensiveness! Hard for us who find it hard to give in……but probably a good lesson to learn! X

Allison Evans November 2, 2016, 7:09 pm

Thanks, Penny!

Sue Ann Gleason November 3, 2016, 1:11 pm

I love the work of Byron Katie. I have gotten more peace from these two sentences: It it true? And, Who would you be without that thought. Life changing. I love what you described here about communication and opening and trust. I can’t think of a more capable person to lead people in “the work.” Brava!

Allison Evans November 3, 2016, 6:03 pm

Thank you, Sue Ann!

Mary November 3, 2016, 8:49 pm

What a totally interesting concept – I am left wondering if it would have made a difference in my own marriage – thank you for sharing and best wishes for your upcoming course .

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