A few nights ago, my boyfriend and I ended up in a discussion over something seemingly silly.

I was cooking dinner for him. Tuesday night is date night… and I had decided to cook him pan seared scallops with spinach and bacon. Yum!

So, I’m busy prepping the food and Joe is offering to help. He loves to cook. He was in a good mood. And loves to participate… without “cooking” the dinner.

I’m a “I wanna do it all myself” kinda girl and start to get irritated that he’s in my space while I’m trying to cook him a nice dinner.

The directions say to sear the scallops 2 and a half minutes on each side. So, after 2 and a half minutes, I go to flip the scallops and Joe pipes in “Are you sure it’s been 2 and a half minutes?”

I immediately snap. Of course I’m sure. I’m perfectly capable of cooking scallops. I tell him he’s hovering… which immediately turned him off and we ended up in a cold, silent dinner… at first.

FIRST, I had to cook the scallops more because they were not cooked all the way through. Which has now put me in a downward spiral of self loathing and criticism. I can’t even cook scallops right. Why did I have to be so mean. I’ve ruined the evening. And THEN… I started thinking, why couldn’t he just leave me alone? Why is he always second guessing what I do? I hate that he’s punishing me now by being silent.

And who knows what he was thinking at that moment, but he was clearly not happy with me either.

Here’s the thing… conflict, of any kind, takes 2 people. If one person is not defining the moment as a problem… there is no problem. A problem occurs when a person defines that an action is a problem. That’s it is not ok. Then… it’s not ok.

So, when he innocently asked about the scallops being flipped at 2 and a half minutes, I was the one that put meaning around it. I’m the one that decided at that moment he must be criticizing me… he must be attacking me… and then acted out in anger to get him out of my space.

The fact is, Joe simply asked if it had been 2 and a half minutes. That’s it. I could have just as easily said, Yes… but I’m not sure that was long enough. Or whatever. And we would have moved on in flow.

Why did I put meaning around his simple statement? Well that’s a deeper question isn’t it? Why do any of us put meaning around anything? We are programmed by our environments and our upbringing to translate words and actions into meaning. We may grow constantly being criticized and therefore, interpret questions as attacks. We may grow up with our parents doing everything for us and we become dependent on someone else to take care of us. Because that’s how we define love.

What we think creates our reality. We think a certain way… which turns into feelings… which drives our actions… and creates a result. If you don’t like the result, something in that flow needs to change. You need to change how you think.

First step is to be aware. For me… I’m not 100% sure what triggered my thinking and behaviors. I haven’t sat down and really thought about it. But here’s what happened… we talked. That’s what we do. When something isn’t right… we talk about it. He shares what he’s feeling and I share what I’m feeling. We listen and we try to accept and understand each other’s point of view. In this case, I will be more aware the next time my inner monster starts to rise… for no apparent reason. I will know that Joe is not attacking and only being helpful and wanting to interact. That thinking will lead to a very different result.

By the way… the conflict could have also been avoided if Joe chose not to get upset when I said he was hovering. I’m not defending myself… I’m making a point that conflict takes two people. It’s how we choose to react to a situation that can cause a conflict.

Resolution and love takes two too.  The only way to move forward and to be better is to address it immediately… with respect and love. To forgive. To listen. To love. Both people must participate in this way. My ex-husband and I, when we were married, never really fought. Whenever conflict started to arise, he would dismiss it… ignore it… and avoid it.  We were masters at avoiding and pretending everything was fine. It wasn’t.

I hope this helps you. Relationships in our life are so important. We have to deal with people in all areas of our life. Co-workers, partners, friends, family, children, neighbors… strangers… and if you find that you seem to always be arguing or getting pissed off at someone… self check yourself. It is YOUR CHOICE to react the way you are acting. It is your meaning that you are putting on the situation and that person. Ask yourself why? Look at the facts separate from the emotion. In most cases, you will discover that the only person that’s upset is you.

Let it go. That negative and angry energy will hold you back in life. Instead, replace your anger with love and blessings. Smile. Forgive. Move on.

Jen Thoden