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Love, War: How to have good relationships with those you care about most

  • Published
  • By Geoff Gibson
  • 188th Wing director of Psychological Health
Going into the new mission for the 188th Wing, every single one of us has a real opportunity to perform an active, meaningful role in our nation's defense on a daily basis. Our new mission is important, and your contribution to our mission really matters. However, there is a time for war and a time for peace.

Although we will have the capacity to wage war directly from Fort Smith, we also need to be able to feel security and peace in our own homes and relationships. Too often our homes and relationships are filled with conflict. We argue and fight, or avoid, the people who we love and are closest to.

Relationship conflict is one of the most common issues that erode 188th members' resilience and distract from successful mission completion.  Emotions, such as feeling hurt, abandoned, betrayed or neglected, fuel conflict in relationships. But expressing emotion effectively can heal our relationships and bring us closer together. Your relationships will improve as you become more aware and proactive regarding your own emotions, and take responsibility for how you express them.

Primary emotion binds us together, but secondary emotion pushes us apart. Primary emotions are the basic feelings which we have such as love, bonding, fear, hurt and disappointment. Expressing these primary emotions typically pulls people together and gives us a feeling of truly understanding and being understood in our relationships.

However, if we don't express these feelings in their original primary form, we then express our feelings in more destructive secondary forms such as anger, blaming, accusations, hostility and coldness. For example, you might feel hurt and abandoned that your partner is not there for you in the manner you need.

If you express that primary emotion directly by saying, "I need to feel that you are there for me" or "I feel lonely when you are not here for me," you are much more likely to get what you need than by expressing that feeling using secondary emotion and saying, "You are never there for me" or "You are an untrustworthy, two-timing, no-good person."

To fuel bonding rather than conflict in your relationships, be aware of your own feelings and the language you are using to express them. When you feel hurt or abandoned, try to express these feelings directly and in their primary form instead of turning them into accusations which further damages the relationship and get you even less of what you really need.

One easy tip, saying the phrase "I feel" instead of "you always" or "you never" keeps you on track with primary emotions, and increases your opportunity for effective bonding and communication.

As always, consult your Airman care team (chaplain, director of Psychological Health, Airman and Family Readiness program manager) for additional support when needed. We care about you and want to help you be resilient and successful.

Editor's note: Geoff Gibson won the 2013 Director of Psychological Health of the Year award for the entire Air National Guard. In addition to his role as the director of Psychological Health for the 188th Wing, he is a licensed marriage and family therapist.