Stuck in an argument that just keeps going around in circles? That feeling of being constantly misunderstood in your relationship, and the (often frantic) want to explain yourself in hopes of getting rid of the conflict. These are some signs that you may be falling into the intention trap.
What is the intention trap?
The saying goes: “Good people have good intentions”. We often feel that if we have good intentions we should be immediately forgiven if our impact isn’t taken the way we hoped it would be.
When we look at a relationship, most of us have good intentions. The struggle comes when both people with good intentions, focus on being good over making connection. We quickly become defensive, we shut down or act out towards our partner. We start to feel like our partner might be questioning our goodness as a person. Of course we’re going to feel the need to protect ourselves, defend ourselves; it feels like we’re under attack!
This is the intention trap. What was intended to be a good will gesture, or statement becomes something of contempt. Something that starts and argument because we are unaware of how the other person is taking it in. And instead of hearing them out, we quickly shift into denfending our honor.
Focusing on our Impact within the Relationship
The downfall with the intention trap is it eliminates what we were looking for in the first place, connection. Our impact is more important that our intentions. And yet, every time, in conflict we lose connection to our impact because we’re so frantically protecting ourselves through our focus on our intentions. This blocks the opportunity for repair.
So we need to shift, to aligning ourselves to our impact rather than intentions. Acknowledging when our intention didn’t match our impact is crucial. This brings in the possiblity of authentic repair. It moves us from “I’m sorry you felt hurt, but I didn’t mean it that way” to “I regret that I hurt you, how can I fix this.” This is vulnerable work. It is humble work.
As we fully own our impacts, it is not a surrender of our ‘goodness’, rather an act of it. We may feel guilty for our impact, and that may be uncomfortable, but it is better than the cycle of conflict that the intention trap will keep us in.
This can be hard work within a relationship. If you feel couple’s therapy might be a good fit please connect with our couple’s therapists: John or Karen
If you are ready to take the jump, reach out here.
John Pitman, APSW
Psychotherapist for Individuals & Couples