TL;DR: Energy is contagious. If you feel tension in your relationship, then you have the power to lighten the mood for a more constructive dynamic (“anabolic” energy). Conversely, you can add tension with destructive, “catabolic” energy.
What if you could affect your relationship’s energy/mood almost as easily as flipping a switch on your home thermostat?
It’s not a far-fetched idea; in fact, you’ve probably seen it without knowing what was really happening.
For example, let’s say you’re at a school dance. The DJ is playing something like “Funkytown.” People are on the dance floor but swaying like zombies in prom attire, not really into it. They paid to enter the event because “everyone was going to be there.” But since lame old farts organized it (including the balding, stick-in-the-mud principal who wears a plaid tweed jacket and bow tie to work every day), the kids are just killing time until it’s over.
Then the dance team decides it’s fed up with the “undead” vibe and decides to jump into the middle of the dance floor, creating a circle like school mascots trying to stimulate a stadium. They’re getting everyone pumped, break-dancing and then starting a dance off. The same song is playing in the background, but it’s taken on a whole new feel, a party feel. People have transitioned from zombies in prom attire to jumping beans!
Another example is a work meeting that bores the hell out of everyone except for the straight-laced dill weed who proposed it. You’re sitting next to sweaty Bob who smells like he’d been near farm animals all day (based on a true story, and yes, his name was Bob). You crack a joke that makes even the most stone-faced person smile a little. It lightens the mood and makes the next 15 minutes more manageable, especially next to sweaty Bob.
Hopefully you see how you can easily manipulate energy in your life. The life coaching school where I earned my certification calls constructive, productive energy “anabolic energy” and the opposite “catabolic energy.”
So let’s get more into this idea, using an example from my partner Phillip’s and my relationship. (It involves my being a stick-up-the-ass girlfriend.)
Personal Story and Relationship Advice
Phillip recently got a job near my workplace, so he and I started carpooling. (In addition to my relationship coaching business, my day job is at a science research institution.) As a self-proclaimed tree-hugger, I was excited to lower our carbon footprint while spending more time together.
As life goes, though, sometimes reality shows its ugly head more than we’d like, sort of like playing with a Jack-in-the-Box toy, but with Pennywise popping out instead of a cute kangaroo or what have you. With more time together came more opportunities to nit-pick each other’s habits, more unnecessary errands, more living on each other’s clocks, and so on. Instead of living for one, we were living attached at the mobile hip.
As much as we tried compromising, the tension grew. I became increasingly controlling and on a shorter fuse, and Phillip became more defiant.
“Do we have to listen to that song again?”
“Oh my god, please stop braking so hard!”
“Did you talk to your boss about going on vacation? Why didn’t you talk to your boss about going on vacation? Why are you stringing me along on this? Why can’t you just talk to your boss about going on vacation? Surely, you’re allowed to go on vacation!” I nagged (or rather, interrogated) him constantly.
As time went on, we gave each other a ton of attitude like a couple of bratty siblings. I realized that even with good intentions behind this carpooling idea, we were spending maybe too much time together. We just weren’t getting along.
Energy is contagious, and we were circulating catabolic energy (destructive, unproductive energy) like circulating air in a car. It was wafting around like allergy-inducing particles. So, when I realized something needed to change, I decided to shift my attitude like operating a manual car, because that was within my control.
While driving home together the next day, I decided to hold my nagging for another day. I didn’t ask to run another stupid errand. I didn’t rip on his music. Instead, I spoke soothingly and simply listened to Phillip talk about his day. I asked questions like an inquisitive therapist. He asked about my day. You could feel the energy move from catabolic to anabolic. The allergy particles became a calming lavender scent.
And just like that, I turned the relationship thermostat from hot and hostile to chill.
If the time is right and you need help adjusting the thermostat in your relationship, then fill out the form at the bottom of this page. I’ll be in touch ASAP.