How Do We Get Back to Okay?

a photograph of a sculpture in the desert at what appears to be sunrise (with large clouds in the background). Two wire frames of adults sitting with their backs turned to one another bent over in a despondent post. Within them are two solid child-shaped structures that are turned towards one another, symbolizing the inner child's desire to connect even during disagreement.
Image by just_shot_of_jameson / CC BY

My eyes are raw from crying. As I sit on the downstairs couch, I feel like there are bricks in my chest. If I think carefully through the last hour, I can actually retrace the series of statements that took us here. But he’s sitting upstairs in the bedroom angry and frustrated. Not in the mood to talk about anything. He has his shields up.

I take a deep breath and text the following: How do we get back to okay? I want to be okay, but I don’t see a path to getting there.

A few seconds later, I hear his footsteps moving on the floor above. The sound of the bedroom door opening. Then he’s on the stairs. And finally in my arms. Smoothing down my hair.

We’re both crying.

“This fight is stupid,” I say. “We’re worth more than that, to be arguing over pointless things.”

“Yup,” he says. “Stupid.”

“All we need to make up is a unanimous vote that we want to,” I say. “We’re the only ones who count here.”

Getting Back to Okay

I recently came across a piece of art from Burning Man (here it is, posted to the Poly.Land Facebook page), a wire sculpture of two adults with their backs turned to one another. Apparently in mid-argument. They’re bent over in a seated position, their posture signalling despondence, disagreement, and emotional distance. Yet, each of the adult-shaped cages contains a small solid child. And those inner child structures are facing towards one another. The inner child in each desperately wants to connect with the other.

It’s a beautiful statue. I was immediately thrown back to memories of arguments I’ve had. The ones that aren’t based on any real conflict of values but instead misunderstandings. The ones that take us off course into that senseless state of emotional exile where a love can suddenly  turn from ally to enemy.

I’m not sure how I stumbled across that cognitive interrupt — How do we get back to okay? — but it’s now my standard go-to when I find myself in this position, suddenly adversarial without a good reason. It’s my way of letting the other person know that I might look like I’m turned away, but my core is turned towards them, and all I really want to do, at the end of the day, is to reconnect.

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A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching: Advice for Couples Seeking Another Partner 

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