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Perspective

As a former History teacher, I have developed an interest in the history of warfare. One thing that has always baffled me is the protective armor worn in the middle ages. Don't get me wrong, the threat of a sword, arrow, flaming arrow or spear coming toward my body would definitely send me searching for some protection.


Its the helmet...Looking through a small slit in a helmet and being able to antipate the moves of others on the battlefield, determine their affiliation with the enemy or my side, and position myself appropriately. Sometimes, I feel like spouses wear helmets that are the emotional equivilent of a mideavil knight's helmet. It protects them. They are all but hidden beneath the cold metal.


However, they are almost completely blind. They have no poriferal vision. They can't see the whole battle field. They're handicapped by their lack of sight. They see everyone as an opponent, including their partner. They are so fearful of being attacked, hurt or wounded, that they hide - alone - in their protective armour. When we see someone who is "armored" and protected, we don't feel safe, we sense danger. If you pulled up to your house tonight after a long day at work and saw the SWAT team parked out front, would you find that inviting or concerning?


Here's the thing, some of us need to protect against abusive and insensitive partners. Most of us do not. We have gotten in the habit of anticipating pain and we gear up. Not only does that put our partner on defense, because that is what we do when we sense danger, but it limits our ability to actually SEE what is going on and HEAR what our partner is saying. It will all be filtered through "defensive" filters.


How do we "disarm?"


If you've been doing this a long time, you may need to see a therapist. If possible, have an open conversation with your partner. Explain that you believe you have been in a "protective mode" and you want to try to be more open and vulnerable. Be honest. Set expectations.


One thing that most couples find helpful is establishing a "Rules of Engagment." Sit down and create a list of 10-20 "rules" that you will both obey during conflict. This is not the time to argue about whether or not you're doing those things or the thing is only your partner's problem. This is a joint effort to create boundaries that will make you BOTH feel safer during conflict.


An example might look like:

  1. No name calling

  2. No cursing

  3. Use calm voices (be sure to define this... with specifcity)

  4. Take a 15 min break if things get heated.

  5. Define the issue and write it down, do not deviate or bring new issues to the table until the original one is resolved

Post the "Rules of Engagement" on your fridge, or your bathroom mirror. Sign it with your partner and agree that you will follow the rules, even if your spouse needs more practice and maybe backslides a bit.


Knights had a life expectancy of about 31 years old. My hypothesis is that in addition to plagues, infection and fever - having such limiting armor created more obstacles in battle than safety.



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