HAIR LOSS SHOULD NEVER CAUSE CONFLICT AND ARGUMENTS … AND NEITHER SHOULD ANYTHING ELSE.
Why do two seemingly in-love-with-each-other adults agree to get married, profess their undying devotion to each other in a ceremony laced with lifelong intentions and commitments, and then find themselves confronted with an issue like hair loss and can’t seem to get past it? It seems as if “till death do us part” is a lot less complicated than losing one’s hair.
The truth is couples fight over a number of issues, issues that carry heat in their lives, such as sex, raising children, raising parents, money and now the previously quiet little secret: hair loss. Men have told me in sessions that seeing their wife lose their hair is not what they signed up for. Women, on the other hand, predictably less shallow, are able to adjust to their partner’s hair loss a lot easier. The real issue for them is dealing with how their partner sees himself and the ensuing arguments that never seem to get resolved.
But whether it’s hair loss or anything else, let’s not be foolish enough to think the stories you share with your friends — or better yet, the ones you tell yourself in your mind when no one else is listening — have anything to do with what you are really fighting about. It may make for good conversation and high drama, but it does miss the mark and, most importantly, the truth. This is not to minimize the feelings and judgments that come forward around hair loss or anything else that gets you going; just understand that there is a deeper belief system at stake.
We ultimately fight to protect others from confirming what we fear deep down inside to be true about ourselves. Much like a vampire, our deepest wounds and concerns must never see the light of day and are destined to roam in the darkest recesses of our mind, to be protected at all costs. In the case of our hair, apparently much of its role is only camouflaging the twisted stories transpiring in the brain. That alone is why we are capable of saying and sometimes doing such horrible things to the person we supposedly love the most — and doing so with great repetition and consistency. Kind of makes me wonder if shoving the wedding cake down each other’s throat is a precursor of things to come.
Some basics on conflict resolution
So, what is a couple to do? Consider the following eight suggestions:
- Only one person gets to be triggered at a time. Hey, you both can’t go unconscious. Whoever gets triggered first has dibs. Plain and simple. Just because your partner is having feelings doesn’t mean you have to agree; you just need to be willing to empathize with his or her plight. Which means that numbers 2-7, below, are really for the people on the receiving end of their partner’s current state of mind.
- Don’t take the bait. Your partner is going to try every trick in the book to draw you into a fight. Don’t give in. “Does my hair look okay?” sounds innocent enough; yet, behind your response is a baseball bat waiting to take you down. You will be tempted. You will be insulted. Your partner will even make up crap! Don’t take the bait. If you do, then it’s game over. Your best bet is to reflect the question back to him or her in a positive way.
- Stay present at all costs. I mean really dig deep to not join the party. Be aware that your stuff is coming up and you are probably being triggered back. You must remember there is no future in diving in, only an extension of the pain for both of you. The key here is to starve the story your partner is trying to make true.
- Reflect back to your partner what you are hearing. You can repeat word for word or paraphrase — but do your best not to improvise and add stuff. People hate that. Your best bet is to fancy yourself a narrator or sports announcer on the radio. Just mirror it back to your partner. Much of this is about the need to be heard.
- Reflect back to your partner what you perceive she is feeling. “You seem angry and sad that I challenged you on your decision to wear hair.” Also, don’t guess at what a person is feeling; know it or ask.
- Empathize with your partner’s plight. If he is triggered, then it is about your partner, not you. That doesn’t mean it was OK for you to draw attention to his receding hairline, but know that something else much deeper is going on for him. “I can understand you being upset about me saying that. In retrospect, I know I would be, too.”
- Allow cool-down time. Before engaging in finding a solution, check in with your partner and take the emotional temperature. If the coast is clear, you will also want to share your experience and feelings at this time. If you just choose to jump in because you are ready to do so, don’t be surprised if you simply activate the anxiety and find yourself back in it.
- Remember that you are partners in this. In the end, you will need to find a solution together, or at the very least an approach that reflects your willingness to support each other regardless of what either of you is feeling or believes is true. All successful partnerships reflect the need to compromise and focus more on being happy than on being right