We have lots of relationships in our lives. Each presenting unique challenges in conflict resolution. This time on Peace Talks, we focus on dating, partnering, and marriage relationships. It's a huge and timeless topic that gets plenty of attention in popular media but we didn't want to ignore it on Peace Talks. We won't unlock all the mysteries of relationships in this half hour but we hope to get a fresh take on them in a conversation with Jackie Woods - a life teacher, author and founder of the Adawehi Institute, a healing center in Columbus, North Carolina. Guest Host: Paul Ingles.

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Jackie Woods: As a life teacher, my job is to help people grow, to become all that they can become. Now, that's fine, if both people in a relationship are growing equally. But balance is a key factor in either having peace in your relationship, or having conflict.

So, we have to learn how to deal with growth: one growing more quickly than the other, often times. Or, even when they're growing together, growth is change. A relationship that grows stagnant is in real trouble. Growing relationships have to stay in balance, while they're growing at uneven rates, often times. Because it's rare for two people to grow at exactly the same rate. So, balance is a key to peace, as far as I can tell.

Part of what that entails is recognizing that a relationship has three spaces. There's your space; there's my space and there's our space. And, because it has three spaces, you can balance between these three. So, if for instance, at any one point, I can bring more patience with the children than you have with the children. But, what about our relationship; what does that mean in our third, relationship, space? We have to define how we are going to be with the children. I can't just cover all the patience in the relationship, because that's coming from my space, personally. So, if I have grown in the energy of patience, maybe you can offer to the children something else, that I'm smaller in. You might offer them more play than I have. You might offer them more organization. I might give them the gift of focus. There's different gifts that we bring. It is in realizing these differences that we begin to understand balance.

Is it possible to choose a relationship that will have less conflict, in your opinion? And, if so, how might you move toward that?

Jackie Woods: I think, to choose a relationship that will have less conflict, is to choose someone who is willing to grow. Conflict arises when we have married our fantasy of who we want that person to be, and we've made ourself believe it. And, that's what a lot of people do. And they call that, "being in love," when, in fact, they don't even really know the person. They have just imposed a fantasy on them. When you really get to know a person, and you can understand the balance of them having some qualities that you don't have and you have some, but the relationship comes together where we meet in the middle. When you can understand that, then, there are a number of people that would be a good relationship. Now, you don't want a person who has a values system that's completely different from yours; that's just asking for trouble to begin with. But, if you find someone who has common interests with you, who is growing, who has a compatible belief system, then, at that point, you can begin to work on the relationship as a third entity, rather than letting it become you or them.

Adawehi Institute
Columbus, NC

Adawehi Healing Center

And the sum of that, then, the sum has some value. In that values that you don't share with someone else, or traits that they would show that you don't have, are things that, essentially, can expose you to something outside of yourself. Is that right?

Jackie Woods: Yes. I feel like a relationship that is used correctly can help us expand and grow more quickly than any other thing in our life. If we can learn to cover their qualities, in other words, to accept their qualities as something that's not part of us, but expands us in the relationship, then, we've grown. So, having someone who's just like you could get to be really boring and not very growthful.

As you've suggested, the stress and conflict is inevitable in relationships, even in a healthy relationship, a part of a healthy relationship. But, depending on people's temperament, aggravation, even anger, can come up in these situations where it's more than just a clash or disagreement that you've identified. What ideas do you have about dealing with the anger, when it gets to a hot point?

Jackie Woods: It needs to be defined ahead of time, how you're going to handle these hot points. For me, for a long time, my husband absolutely couldn't handle it when I became very angry. So, I would say, "I'm very angry. I need to take a walk." And I would take a walk. That was a way for me to internally get in touch with it and release some of it, so that I could come back and talk about the issue, rather than just dump all my anger on him. That was defined ahead of time. And, if I would forget, he would remind me. So, you can't just wait 'til the moment of, and then do whatever your pattern of dealing with it has always been. You've got to, again, define for the relationship, what works for both people. There's no one answer. Some people can yell and scream at each other and get it all out, and they're very cool with that; other people can't. So, you need to know how the two of you can deal with one person's - or both people's - anger. And it may be defined differently. If one is angry, it may be defined differently than if both people are angry. So, there is no one answer, but it does need to be defined ahead of time.

I know that sex therapy, as it would be called, is a huge field that is very deep. Do you have some thought about how people in a relationship can work through conflicts over their sexuality - some general ideas?

Jackie Woods: Well, I deal with this a lot, particularly with women who have been sexually abused in their growing up. And there's tremendous scars and wounds in there from that. And they need to have a very understanding partner to help them get through those. If they don't get through those, they either shy away from sex, or they use it as a control. Because they were controlled by it. They need a lot of support and understanding in getting through those issues.

I would imagine that there are many issues that many women -- or men, for that matter if they had sexual trauma - are reticent to introduce the topic because it feels like....

Jackie Woods: It's so threatening. In your sexuality, you're really exchanging a lot with that person. You're exchanging feeling. You're exchanging your body. You're exchanging a space where you are trying to be equal. If you're not equal, then it usually isn't very good sex. So, that equality space. And, if you don't feel equal, then it comes out in your sexuality, as well, even if you haven't been abused. The manifestation of who we are can come out a lot in our sexuality. I've said, many times, if I can get people to tell me how they are, in the sex act, I know a whole lot about their relationship. I prefer that people not just talk about what they like in sex -that's what talking about it usually ends up being - but they talk about how they are in sex: who they are in their sexuality, what parts of themselves do they bring to the sex act. Get away from it being a performance, but a sharing and an exchange. Working toward that goal: this is what I bring to an exchange; this is what I feel I get back in the sharing. Rather than how well did we do? Did it feel good? Of course, it feels good. It's not about the "Feel Good;" we've got to get beyond the "Feel Good," the performance to feel good, to see it as sharing of, "this is what I bring of who I am and this is what you bring. And how do we share that?"

You talk convincingly about the joy a relationship can bring. Can singles replace that joy with something unique and special, themselves?

Jackie Woods: Oh, definitely. Many times, people need to have a space in their lives where they just learn to be with themselves, to be comfortable with their own company, to get to know themselves. Some people do that well with another person. And other people need to do that alone, depending upon the make up of the person. I, myself, was married for awhile and got a divorce, and had several years of being alone. And loved it! I didn't want to remarry. I enjoyed the deep, inner looking that I had the opportunity to do. I had lots of relationships: lots of friends, interactions with people, so, that need for interaction was met. I enjoyed the freedom of being able to define my own life, because I had never had an opportunity to do that. It was defined very strictly for me when I was growing up. And then, it was defined in the marriage. And I needed to learn how to define my life for me. Then, when I did remarry, I found that I brought more value than I had the first time. There was more of me to bring. There was more understanding of how I needed to define things in my life.

(transcription courtesy Rogi Riverstone)




WEBSITE: The Center For Nonviolent Communication