In relationships, most of us are stuck in a typical behavioral pattern: we withdraw, or we pursue. When engaged in conflict, one of us (the pursuer) might push, nudge, prod, and poke until we get a reaction out of our partner. The other person (the withdrawer) proceeds to move inward, grow silent, sometimes choosing to flee, leaving the argument by leaving the room. There are moments where we find two pursuers face to face and other times, tensions rise as two withdrawers can’t bear to open dialogue.
Through these patterns, therapists guide clients to understand the underlying emotions of our partners. Why do our loved ones run away? Why does my friend continue to push until they dominate the conversation? Our patterns of argumentation, whether in the living room or the board room have little do with the issue at hand. We run away because we feel dismissed. We raise our voices because we think we aren’t being heard. With the litany of world issues, forgetting to take out the trash or leaving socks on the floor seems miniscule. But to a partner that constantly feels undervalued, each “forgotten” chore feels like a slap in the face.
We can take a lesson from creation. According to the Kabbalists, when God created the world, God engaged in tzimtzum, a deep breath inward, contracting to make space for…us. There was a Godly step back to let human beings find room to expand, grow, succeed, and fail. There is only room for human development because God thought to shift, move back a little, and take note of the needed space for humanity to flourish.
Our relationships thrive when we intentionally take a small step back, not withdrawing or retreating, but rather, wondering. Wondering what it is the other person is feeling. Trying to understand why they are yelling or why they are silent. Getting a better sense of whether they feel accepted or pushed away.
Sometimes, merely taking a deep breath is our reminder to see
who it is that needs us most.
God made space for us…let’s try to make space for each other.
In partnership with The Jewish Journal, you can also find Rabbi Guzik’s blog post HERE.