by Helga Illig

After our first big snowfall this winter, I had an unfortunate incident…….yup…..I can still hardly believe it happened to me….. as I was leaving the office for home, I started my car and then got out to brush the snow off my windows.  I couldn’t find my snow brush in the trunk so I decided to just brush the snow off with my hands.  I got around to my driver’s side (which I usually leave slightly ajar), and as I was brushing the snow off the window, I pushed the door harder than I had expected, and B-A-M, the door shut!

I had locked myself out of my car.  Did I mention it was the first snowfall this winter?   It was snowing heavily.  My purse containing my phone and my keys were locked in the car.  It was around nine o’clock at night and it was dark.  The parking lot was almost completely empty.  I started thinking about what I could do.  I could call my husband and have him pick me- nope, the phone is in the locked car……oh!, I could go back to the office and call from- nope, my keys for the office are locked in the car…….!!!!  (I mentioned that it was snowing heavily, it was dark and it was late right???)

I caught myself doing silly things.  I grabbed the door handle and tried to open the locked door.  I knocked on the window….I did!  I knocked on the window…not sure who I had hoped would unlock the car door for me…..

It made me think of what it’s like when we are talking to our significant other.

The other day, I was remembering this incident.  It made me think of what it’s like when we are talking to our significant other.  We are hoping to connect through our conversation, but we forget a hot button issue or our words aren’t as careful or as kind as they could be and we say something that causes him to shut down.  We immediately recognize our mistake and try to fix it.  Sometimes, we say the same thing again, maybe a bit louder or more emphatically – a bit like knocking on the window of a locked car, hoping someone will unlock the car for us…. But all our efforts seem to be in vain.  I’ll admit to you that I felt quite foolish in that moment when I realized that knocking on the window wouldn’t get me the outcome I’d hoped for.

Now knocking on the window of my locked car wouldn’t lock up my car more, but sometimes my efforts to be understood or to get a response might cause my spouse to shut down further and the very thing I didn’t want, becomes the very thing that happens.

This is also true when we are communicating with our kids.

When we are frustrated because we don’t know why our kids aren’t talking to us, when we are raising our voices and saying things like “I don’t know what has gotten into you” they are likely to shut down further and become more distant.  Of course our intention is usually to understand and to help, but often our frustration shows and looks a lot like anger.  Again, the very thing we didn’t want, becomes the very thing that happens.

Just like on that snowy night, I feel foolish and helpless.  I feel stuck like I don’t have a way out of my dilemma.

You might be wondering how I got back into my locked car that night.  As luck would have it, there were some men unloading some equipment into the building across the parking lot.  I walked over and asked if someone had a phone I could use and my husband came to my rescue…..

Sometimes, admitting we are stuck and admitting we need help makes it easier for the person who is shut down to hear us.  Now, instead of looking frustrated and upset, they see us as someone who really needs help.  They are able to see that we are in a jam.  Instead of hearing a raised voice, they hear a plea for help.  We have become more approachable and we don’t look or sound as intimidating.

EFT or Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples can help us recognize when we are feeling stuck or afraid.  Emotionally focused therapy can also help us develop softer ways of approaching our loved ones and asking for the help we need.

Couples Workshop