MetaConversations

While this post isn’t specifically sexual integrity related, it is a tool that I commonly use at home and with couples in my office. It’s simply a way to raise a conversation (often amidst conflict) out of the muck of the subject to actually see what’s happening relationally.

If you’re into tech-talk, you probably know what Meta-Data is:  data about the data. In this case a MetaConversation is, you guessed it, a conversation about the conversation.

Specifically it addresses 3 keys points: how you are feeling, how I am feeling and what’s happening in our relationship at this moment.

MetaConversation

When a conversation feels stuck, often it is because the root relational issue isn’t being addressed. Being locked up in a he-said-she-said usually indicates there are emotional nerves that have been tapped, but aren’t being talked about. Thus, the conversation often ends in one or both people having hurt feelings, a stalemate of “agree to disagree” (which often provides no real resolution) or a combination of the two. When that stuck feeling occurs, it can be a signal to both parties to stop the current conversation and switch gears to a metaconversation. In other words, to literally talk about what’s happening in the current conversation.

An example might be a conversation about money. He thinks they should spend the tax return and she thinks they should save it. He’s been wanting some toy or gadget, and she’s been stressing about how they’ll pay for summer vacation, much less fund their retirement. She’s getting angry that he insists on spending, he’s getting frustrated that she won’t let loose a little and enjoy the hard-earned cash. Spend or Save? Is the issue really about the money? Probably not.

A metaconversation might reveal that he is feeling insignficant. Spending the tax return would signal recognition of his hard work, a reward for faithfully doing his job and providing for the family. She might be feeling insecure and anxious. Having the vacation paid for ahead of time provides a sense of security and planning for retirement actually adds an element of respect for her husband. Relationally, we might find that both are pulling back, walling off. She wants to feel protected but he is threatening that, so she’s going to protect herself emotionally. He wants to feel respected and validated but she is withholding it, so he is going to nearly demand it. The metaconversation can provide a space and language for both to recognize what the other is feeling (which 99% of the time seems to be unintentional) and to identify the divide developing in the relationship. Finally, it gives an opportunity to address a specific emotional, relational dynamic.

In response they both can speak to the others needs:

Husband: “The last thing I want you to feel is insecure and worried about our finances. I also want you to be confident that I have our family’s best interest at heart. I want you feel protected, and to know that a short term want won’t replace our long term goals.”

Wife: “I appreciate your hard work. I am proud of you, your commitment and your provision for our family. I want you to know I respect you.”

They can now make a decision on what to do with the money without it being a wedge in the relationship, and without the decision being motivated by shoring up emotional needs.

Men in my office typically ask something to the effect of, ” couldn’t we bypass all that stuff by just agreeing to compromise- spending half and saving half?”  Well, yes, if by “all that stuff” you’re referring to the meaningful, relational communication that builds relational currency.

The metaconversation can be used regardless of the subject matter. Money, sex, addiction, parenting, moving, work, hobbies, dinner, you name it. And it doesn’t have to be in conflict, but that’s often where it can be a handy tool.

Remember that in conflict we want to value the person over the problem, and the relationship over the result. Metaconversations can help achieve this.

 

 

 

Follow Up to the Wake post

After posting the video about Grieving and Hitting the Wake of our addictions, a few questions popped up. I wanted to answer those in a quick post.

Q– why is the propeller red?

A – because I accidentally hit a button on the screen-capture software and rather than worry about it I just rolled with it.

Q – what do you mean by “don’t let off the gas”? What does that look like tactically?

A – If you’ve attended the Every Mans Battle workshop it means working your battle plan. That especially includes the daily activities, but the monthly and weekly as well are important. You are literally in the process of rewiring your brain for recovery and healthy living. That takes intentionality, just like wiring it up for dysfunction took intentionality.

If you haven’t attended the workshop, then it means developing a plan. What are the key things you know you need to do, everyday, to start creating healthy habits? How do you need to engage God everyday to deepen your relationship and cultivate your sensitivity to the Spirit? Who should you meet with every week and what should you talk about that will lead to creating a culture of honesty?

Here are three things I urge you to make a part of your daily recovery rituals:

1 – recommitment prayer – come up with a simply prayer that will help you align your heart with God, invite Him into your day, and remind you what trajectory you’re on.

2 – connection – talk with an accountability connection everyday. Talk. Not just text. Not email. Not smoke-signal. Not Morse Code. Not Navajo Code. Actually have a conversation with them about where your heart and mind are, and how you’ve experienced any temptation. This may be the most difficult thing in the entire plan.

3 – read recovery literature – read things that are going to help you understand yourself, God and others better. No, the Bible doesn’t count as recovery literature. This is in addition to being the word. There are a TON of great books out there. Have something on hand to pick up and read even a page every day.

Q – Why would I grieve losing something that has been so hurtful and damaging?

A – our addictions/mistresses/compulsions are, in a sense, like a really bad “good-ole-friend”. They offered us comfort, nurturing, escape, excitement, adventure, peace, thrill, acceptance and so on; we’ll miss that. Unhealthy and dysfunctional as it may be, we’ll miss it. Further, all those things we found in unhealthy ways are things that God (I believe) wants to offer us. Problem is, it won’t happen overnight, and those things aren’t shipped next-day. It’s going to take a while to cultivate the relationships with God and others where those things will be found. In the meantime, that old friend can look appealing again.

If you have other questions please post them in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer them!