Relationship tips and tricks can strike us from the most interesting places. Even the intimidating rattlesnake teaches us a lesson in better couples communication.
Don’t worry. We’re not asking you to handle a rattlesnake, attend the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup, or anything extreme. This is a lesson that comes from observation. You can enjoy the results without any personal contact with a live snake.
Why rattlesnakes are so scary
Imagine a day outside in America’s Southwest. You’re leisurely walking along, enjoying the breeze, smells, and sunlight on your skin. When we’re out in the wilds, we’re attuned to our surroundings in a way we don’t usually enjoy in busy cities.
Suddenly, you hear an unmistakable sound. You jolt into alertness. Something primal inside you knows it’s time to be laser-focused on where this sound is coming from.
The bone-chilling shake of a rattlesnake’s tail.
Your brain commands you to freeze. Your very survival now depends on paying attention and the next actions you take.
All other sounds seemingly disappear. You no longer hear the wind in the trees or the birds in the air. The shake commands your attention. You locate the direction the sound is coming from and cautiously move in another direction.
It’s only natural that this eerie, otherworldly surprise that disturbs our peaceful stroll would terrify us so much. We’re hardwired by years of living close to nature to respect and value the warnings the snake gives.
But should we be thankful rather than scared?
What the rattlesnake teaches us
You (and 99.9% of the population) would be right to get scared at that moment. Once away, you’d think, “what a frightening creature,” and probably not, “what a considerate fellow.”
Did we just say considerate?
Yes. You see, unlike other venomous snakes, rattlesnakes provide you with a warning to help keep you safe. If you pay attention, nothing happens. They tell you, “I’m here, please tread carefully. I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Don’t provoke or threaten me, and we’ll all be fine.”
They could slither around hidden in the undergrowth, lunging out to strike us when we least expect it. But they don’t want to attack us. They need some space and let us know that in advance.
We could all learn to be a bit more assertive at times about where we’re at. Sometimes we’re not in a good place, and if someone comes along and provokes us unexpectedly, we might just strike out at them.
Instead of lunging to bite, we can warn our partners to know about our accessibility.
Putting it all into practice
Next time you’re feeling a bit wound-up, try giving your partner a warning before a disagreement turns terrible. “You are about to tread on me, and someone could get hurt. Please take another path for this discussion. I don’t want either of us to get hurt.”
For this to really work, it helps for both partners to acknowledge and agree with this ahead of time. Respect the warning to engage differently.
The partner who received the warning can reply with, “Honey, what would make this a better discussion for you? How could I help make that discussion happen? Is this a good time for a discussion?”
This helps turn the focus away from solving the disagreement and gets you to focus on improving the process of how you talk and handle conflicts, strengthening the relationship for the future.
Most disagreements and conflicts are two people wanting to feel understood and acknowledged. At the same time. This rarely happens, especially in the middle of a fight.
Try taking turns. After the “rattler partner” warns to tread carefully, the other asks, “Honey, what would make this a better discussion for you? How could I help make that discussion happen?”
When the “rattler partner” feels understood, then they ask the other the same questions, “Honey, what would make this a better discussion for you? How could I help make that discussion happen?”
When both partners feel understood, the stage is set for much better communication.
Are you willing to be as considerate as a rattler?
Making a positive change in your relationship can sometimes be as ”simple” as giving a little warning. Please don’t confuse “simple” with “easy.”
Instead of allowing your partner to walk forward, blind to what’s really going on, you can alert them to your availability for a good discussion.
You’re not avoiding them or pushing them away. You’re redirecting them to approach you differently or at another time when you’re ready.
You could even have some fun with it and get a rattle of some kind to shake as a warning when things are heating up.
Of course, this is often easier said than done in the heat of the moment. Discussions can escalate quickly when we’re not equipped or prepared to assert ourselves or understand where we’re at.
A trained couples counselor can help you gain this understanding through couples therapy sessions. They equip and guide you to positively assert yourself at the right time and teach you how to truly listen to what your partner is attempting to communicate with you.
At Grow My Relationship, we aim to provide you with a convenient and discreet way to stay informed about counseling and find highly-trained Developmental Model practitioners. Contact us today if you’d like to learn new communication techniques and strategies for a stronger relationship. We’ll help you find the right relationship counselor for your needs!