My fiance and I have a safe word.
I have a tendency to get lost in whatever project I am working on in the moment whether that is the podcast, writing another book, or wasting time important research on YouTube. She will come into the room and start telling me about something funny she saw, or start asking questions about our upcoming wedding and I am not in the mental space to switch cognitive gears that quickly or cannot give her the attention she needs right now. Nothing to do with her.
Other times, I will get in a mood. A pissy mood. Frustrated at something, frustrated at anything. I need nothing more then some solo time and the space to work it out. usually a long run or walk outside will do, other times I need to refer back to one of my #favoritebooks to realign myself. Either way, it has nothing to do with her or our relationship but she doesn't know that as I fume out of the door, muttering some incoherent string of curse words. This situation is great for our word, too.
Her emotional language default is more set around anxiety and overwhelm, and when life becomes just a bit too much, that is where she inevitably goes. During these times, she might start telling me all the things that are causing that. Somebody at work (she runs a team of 8 as the manager of client success for a $12 million startup). Her job, family and the task list of life sometimes comes to a head and when it does, my first reaction is not straight empathy. the way my brain tells me to go about the solution is something like this: - She has a problem that is making her upset - Problem is causing the effect of being anxious or upset - If I eliminate the problem, her emotions will go away and life is back to normal - The clear way to resolve this is to quickly assess what is bothering her, give some quick ways we can fix the problem...bonus points if she is overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do in an upcoming week because then we can simply create a list and presto! That's it! All done. Emotions be gone!!
I am sure there are some deeply rooted notions coming to the surface with my aversion to emotion, and I constantly wonder how much of that is the way I have seen men behave and we are taught to behave vs. how I actually am as a person. If I had the answer to nature vs nurture I wouldn't be drinking this cheap coffee that's for sure.
Ok back to the story.
Lo and behold, she tells me that she doesn't want me to fix anything for her or to even try, just to give her a hug and she will sort it all out in her head. It's her problem and it has nothing to do with me. Sound familiar?
How am I supposed to know when she is crossing that line into emotional upheaval that she needs to process and let pass instead of an issue that she would like my help with? Conversely, what is a simple way for me to let her know that my frustration has nothing to do with her without having to give an eloquent description of why when I myself am not sure?
The answer is Pickles. Pickles is our safe word.
Pickles is the word we chose to explain everything I just described without saying much. Not sure why we chose pickles. Thy are a strong anecdote in the first chapter of my book and she likes them with popcorn? Mainly, it is a quick and effective way to convey everything I just described in a way that is agreed upon BEFORE the situation arises. That part has been key.
Since implementing, we have seen a 62% increase in life satisfaction, made millions and my abs have never been leaner! I have no way to actually gauge the effectiveness of our pickle strategy except for: it works for us. And we both have used it frequently since introducing it a couple months ago. It helps and for now, we will continue to use it.
Alex is a former Wildland Firefighter, bestselling author and podcaster on all things he finds interesting. Mainly ways for people to make money and build a life that is successful for them instead of how society tell them.
His debut book "Rewrite the Rules" has sold thousands of copies. If you want to get new ideas and ways to change up your life delivered to your email weekly, sign up for his newsletter here.