“Oh my God!!” I screamed, grabbing the passenger side “oh-shit-bar” of our truck and clinging to it for dear life with BOTH hands as Paul was driving.
I’d just noticed that the vehicle in the lane next to us was starting to drift into our lane, and it scared me.
Because I’m a very reactive person, I yelled in alarm and grabbed hold of whatever was available.
“Holy shit, what’s wrong?” Paul asked.
When I explained why I’d reacted that way, Paul told me, “Don’t EVER do that again,” because my exclamation distracted him from everything going on around us, and he believed that could get us killed.
But I did do it again.
Over and over, through the years of our marriage, and every time, it triggered Paul and he’d get upset with me…but there was more to it than I realized at first.
You see, when Paul graduated at the age of 17, he got a job right out of high school driving all across New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Because of all the time he spent driving, he became a very, very capable driver. His focus was multi-faceted, meaning he could sense everything going on around him, including when another vehicle was coming up beside him, or whether an asshole driver was roaring up too fast behind him.
He could predict what might happen with the other drivers around him, and come up with instant solutions. It all happened on a subconscious level.
So, as a result, Paul was very, very confident in his ability to drive, and when he and I met, it was very ingrained in him.
That means, each time I gasped because I noticed something like a car drifting into our lane, it triggered him, because he took it to mean I didn’t trust him, or didn’t think he was a good driver.
This went on for years. Many a date night resulted in a big TRIGGER moment driving home that would kinda “ruin” things.
Because of that, I spent a lot of time trying to SOLVE my trigger, shift my outbursts… basically, fix the problem.
I made progress. I trained myself to stop screaming and reacting. But I was still suffering with the reaction INTERNALLY.
And Paul was also doing his own work on his trigger. He worked on cultivating his compassion, understanding that I wasn’t criticizing his driving, that it was about me and my fear. But he still saw that I was suffering quietly with my fears and he wanted to FIX IT.
The Breakthrough Moment…..
We finally had a breakthrough, one night when we were about a mile from the house.
It was dark, and the state of Pennsylvania’s not a fan of street lights, so when I say it was dark, I mean it was dark.
There was a lot of wildlife in our area, including deer. If you’ve ever lived in an area with tons of deer around, you know they have a tendency to suddenly bolt right in front of your car and scare the shit out of you.
So, as we were driving, I suddenly spotted a deer off the side of the road. It scared me, and before I could stop myself I blurted — “Oh my God, it’s a deer, be careful!” — which once again triggered Paul.
I love my husband. I don’t want to fight, and I didn’t want him to feel badly about this.
So I asked myself silently, Why does this happen? Why do I feel this way? I know this road. It’s near our house.
And then it came to me.
I asked Paul, “Babe, how far ahead can you see the trees?”
“I can see the trees all the way to the light,” he replied.
I started to cry. Right then and there. I started to cry.
I said to him… “I can’t. I can’t see that far. I can only see as far as the sign for the Grey Nuns”.
That was it… for the first time, I realized that Paul could actually SEE about 4 or 5 times farther than I could see in the dark.
For Paul, suddenly it all made sense to him.
Paul could see. He’s always had exceptional vision — even as a kid — including his night vision.
He saw the deer LONG before I did. He saw it was far enough away from the side of the road that he didn’t need to slow down or stop.
Same with the other potential traffic hazards I was always reacting to. Thanks to those years of driving all over Pennsylvania and New Jersey, plus his excellent vision, he sensed them WAY before I did.
Paul was finally able to put himself in my shoes, and he realized that if he was the passenger with someone who was overly confident and drove fast… and I didnt’ have great vision to see what was coming… he might feel uncomfortable about what was coming up too.
>>> Anytime you have a kerfuffle… if you want to SOLVE it, it’s really helpful to figure out how to SEE things through your partner’s blueprint!
Before that moment, Paul’s standard for what he considered “good driving” was that he felt safe.
But in that moment, he had a breakthrough – his definition for what made a “good driver” was that his passenger felt safe.
So to help me feel safe, he began stating it out loud when he saw a deer on the side of the road, or a vehicle drifting into our lane, so I’d know he was on top of it.
He also became willing to slow down (he’s got quite the lead foot, because he’s so confident) and even to give the vehicle in front of us more space than he’d give it if it was just him in the car because, again, he knows doing so helps me feel safe.
Life has a way of sending us the same problem over and over, until we accept the gift it’s trying to give us.
Because I was willing to take OWNERSHIP of solving my trigger… it led me to question why I was reacting, which ultimately led to my breakthrough around my inability to see very far at night.
Because Paul was willing to take OWNERSHIP of solving our kerfuffle, he seized the opportunity to shift his definition of success so that he could create the win-win for us!
Because Paul and I finally recognized the gift this problem was trying to bring us, this problem doesn’t visit us anymore. It’s no longer banging on our door, so to speak.
It’s a gift we get to keep forever.
Being able to see things through your partner’s eyes is HUGE in creating alignment, so you can have that Unshakeable Love™ and Unleashed Passion™.
But you will NEVER get to that breakthrough moment until you take OWNERSHIP of solving the kerfuffles between you (instead of trying to get your partner to change).