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Dig Where It Hurts November 20, 2008

Posted by downton in Dig Where It Hurts.
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Dig Where It Hurts

      We all know that human beings love and hate. Even someone we love, we can have negative feelings toward, like when they squeeze the middle of the tooth paste tube or leave dirty dishes in the sink. The reason it’s important to know that we can love and sometimes dislike our mates is that each is a potential in every situation. For example, when our mate has violated one of our ideals or expectations, we can dig where it hurts. And, don’t be fooled, when people dig, they do mean to hurt.


     Digs come in assorted forms of complaint and criticism. To understand how digs form, we have to understand the ideals we set up for our mate. Ideals specify how we want our mate to behave toward us, toward others, life, and career. Think for a few moments about the ideals you’ve established for your mate. Do you want your mate to have a certain kind of personality, a certain way of listening to you, a certain way of looking?


     Think about all the ways you want your mate to be.


     Okay, now that you have a sense of your ideal mate, notice the ways you dig into your mate with criticisms and complaints when he or she violates an ideal or expectation. Where does your mate fall short in your mind and what specific digs do you use? When you dig, what is the consequence? How does it affect your relationship? Now, think about the ways your mate digs into you. What does she or he say that feels like criticism? When you’ve been dug into, how does it make you feel?


     Now, think about the ways you dig into your self. How do your self-criticisms make you feel? So, can you see the point here? Digs undermine our relationships and our happiness, so what about the possibility of stopping the digs and elevating appreciation?


     Jan was a woman I coached for a couple of months because her relationship with her husband Joe was in a serious decline. One day, I asked her how much digging was going on between them. At first, she didn’t understand what I meant by digging, until I explained that a dig was criticism backed by a feeling of discontent.


     After I laid out my definition of a dig, I could see that Jan wasn’t happy.


     Bob: “So, Jan, it looks like you’re kind of distressed about digs. What’s up?


     Jan: “I just don’t want to go there.”


     Bob: “You don’t want to be aware of your digs? It’s one of the basics of screwing up any loving relationship.”


     Jan: “Yeah, I can see that, but it seems too negative. Why do I have to dwell on that?”


     Bob: “Look, to make relationships work, even make them great, you have to know what people do to screw them up. Digs are one of the big screw ups. See my point?”


     Jan: “Okay. I get your point. So what do you want me to say, that I criticize Joe?”


     Bob: “Everybody criticizes because everybody has ideals and expectations. Behind every criticism there’s an ideal or an expectation. Since we can’t help having ideals and expectations, we can’t help criticizing. How about telling me how you dig into Joe and then how he digs into you?”


     For the next half hour, Jan did a careful and courageous job of identifying the ways she dug into Joe, how she used “stupid” a lot, like that was a “stupid thing to say” and “that was a stupid thing to do.” Other digs revolved about “why don’t” and “why aren’t you.” These two questions can spawn more digs than you can imagine. By the end of the half hour, she had a list of digs that she used on a regular basis which made Joe seem less appealing than he actually was. Digs do that. They whittle our mates down until they seem so small in our minds that we begin wondering why we’re staying with them.


     During the next half hour, Jan talked about how Joe dug into her, reminding her of all the weaknesses he was sure she had, which arose from the background question, “Why aren’t you more like me?” There were the digs, “Maybe you should go on a diet” or, best of all, “You’re becoming more like your mother.”


     At the end of the session, I asked Jan how these mutual digs were affecting their relationship. She said, “We argue too much.”


     Of course they argued too much. That’s what digs produce. Why? Because when we’re dug into there’s an automatic reaction to fight back. That creates fights. Fights screw up love.


     What are the ways you dig into your mate and how does your mate dig into you? With that awareness, think about what you could change, because you’re the only person you have any control over.


Coaching Tips

■ List all the digs you use and the digs used against you.

■ What digs will you stop using?

■ Have your mate read this chapter and then have a conversation about how digs undermine your relationship and what you can do together to change that. When you can reduce your digs (it’s even possible to eliminate them entirely) you’ll both feel better about yourselves and each other, which can only make your relationship better so love can grow.

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1. Sally - November 23, 2008

I just found this blog tonight, and I must say “wow” after reading that very insightful post. I am in the midst of healing from a relationship that ended about 4 months ago, and I am all too familiar with “digs”. I was on the receiving end of digs for most of the time that my ex and I were together, and it was extremely hurtful. His method was that he would disguise the digs as “jokes”, and it would often take me a minute to even realize what was just said, but I would know it didn’t feel good. The times I would call him out on it, he would claim he was just “teasing” and somehow I came off as the crazy, hypersensitive one. He would do very loving things otherwise, so this behavior was very confusing and I felt like something was wrong with ME. I would not dig back, and over time I started to believe him, I started to feel very small and needy, and my self esteem was shot.
I do not understand this kind of behavior towards someone you supposedly love. I know now, as I am away from him, that it was about him, and probably his own self hatred, but the wounds are still healing. I now feel like digs are unacceptable in a relationship, they are sneaky and undermine a person’s self worth, and sense of safety.
Thank you for writing that post, it made me feel validated, and reminds me that my lost relationship was not a good one for me.

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