Do you recall the details of the last serious argument you had? What sparked your anger? Was it the topic? Was it the way something was said? Or was it the person who you were arguing with? Here’s another question: is this an argument that you seem to have had before?
After listening to a Joyce Meyer guest speaker, I learned that most arguments we have are the same – meaning that we argue because of the same thing. Not necessarily on the same subject though, but on the same sensitive areas. These sensitive areas are also known as “core fears”.
A core fear is a cause of main recurring arguments. Many couples have about 85% or more of their arguments based on their core fears. Have you ever wondered why you seem to blow up over the smallest thing someone might say to you? They might have said a little joke about your hairstyle, and you might have snapped on them or ran away in tears. Why? Are you really that sensitive and insecure? Or is it that they stepped on one of your hidden “mines”- your hidden mine meaning your core fear?
Some examples of some common core fears are fear of rejection/abandonment, fear of being seen as incompetent/stupid / fear of failure, fear of not being liked, fear of not being noticed, fear of being detrimental to others, etc., etc. If someone triggers one of these core fears, you will get really emotional and/or start an argument with them. The other person doesn’t necessarily do it on purpose, but they do it just because they’re a human who is ignorant of your mines. They step on it unintentionally and then you blow up on them. If more people were aware of their core fears and discussed them with other people, then so many arguments, break ups, separation, and divorces could be prevented.
A personal example is this: Suppose you have a core fear of being seen as incompetent. Then suppose you return home with a test paper that you got a C on. Then suppose your boyfriend walks in the kitchen while you are in the dining room and notices the test paper lying on the counter and says, “Wow, Dina! I thought you said you studied for this test?” Your boyfriend could have been totally teasing you or meaning no harm. But if you have a core fear of being seen as incompetent, you might blow up and say, “I did study, you big idiot! You were there the whole time helping me study! Maybe if you hadn’t been playing all that loud music, I could have gotten more studying done!” And then the big argument begins. Now the argument will get especially heated if your boyfriend’s core fear is a fear of being detrimental to others’ well-being. If that was the case, then he would be so upset that he would say something else hurtful to you (but intentionally this time) that would make you again retaliate (and this time with a cause) against him! You two would throw out so many hurtful words that you might not even want to be together anymore.
But what if this scenario happened instead…
What if your boyfriend knew of your core fear of being seen as incompetent? So when he came home, he would have said, “Oh, you got a C on your test. That’s good sweetie! So what did you do today? And then you would have said, “Thanks, Hun. Today I ran a mile in the park because I needed to release some stress. I was really aiming at an A on this test because as you know, I was studying very hard.” And then he would say, “You did study hard, Sweetie. But I think that a C is still good.” So because the boyfriend knew his girlfriend’s core fear, he knew how not to detonate that situation into a big blow up.
But suppose he didn’t know her core fear, but she knew he didn’t know hers. If she was willing to be the bigger person, she could say, “That was very hurtful to me because I studied really hard for that test. But I’ll just do better next time.” Instead of attacking his core fear of being seen as a hindrance or as detrimental to someone’s success, she avoided an ugly argument while also letting him know that his statement was hurtful. This way, he knows not to do that again. No argument whatsoever. No chance at a break up.
The important thing is that we let our significant other know up front what our core fears or sensitive areas are. For example, let’s suppose your core fear is fear of abandonment or rejection. So if your boyfriend knows that, he will try to act in ways and word his sentences in such ways that don’t make you feel rejected. Like if he wanted to spend this Saturday with his friends and not with you as is the routine, he can say, “Baby, I know that we usually spend every Saturday with each other, but this Saturday Bobby is having a get-together with just the guys. I would love to spend my Saturday with you, and you know that; but I’m going to be with the guys. I’ll see later though.”
The way that statement was worded was very tailor-made for a person with a fear of rejection. I’m not saying that you ought to baby your oversensitive girlfriend or boyfriend. But I am saying that you should be respectful of those core fears because they are hard to get rid of. And if you love someone, you will not intentionally continue to trigger those mines. It will only cause distrust, resentment, discord, and break-ups. Treat others how you want to be treated. If you don’t want someone constantly stepping on your core fears (and we all have them), then don’t step on theirs. It really hurts!
Some other core fears or sensitive areas are:
– Not feeling validated for your feelings (no matter how irrational or wrong they may be)
– Being controlled
– Being belittled
– Being embarrassed in front of people
– Being ignored or not being acknowledged (if only at times)
– Being rejected
– Being seen as stupid
– Being seen as unlovable
The way that arguments get started because of core fears is this. When one person says something that stings because it triggers your core fear, you almost immediately go for a sensitive area of theirs. An example that we often see on comedy movies is this. Suppose a man insults his wife’s cooking in front of her family. Perhaps she really thought that her cooking was all that and suppose her core fear is being embarrassed in front of people. So she immediately attacks one of his sensitive areas which we know is very common for many men. She says, “Well you weren’t all that in the bed last night, so if you would do a better job in the bedroom, I might do a better job in the kitchen!” If his core fear is being belittled (especially having his manhood belittled) he will attack back and say something like, “Well, if you hadn’t gained so much weight, I could last longer!” And then she might counterattack upon one of her core fears of being seen as unattractive by saying, “Believe me, Sweetie, it has nothing to do with my weight. At least one of us is packing something of substance somewhere on our bodies!” These types of arguments happen all the time, and they destroy a lot of good relationships all because one or both persons didn’t communicate their core fears and understand the other person’s core fears
The guest speaker on Joyce Meyer compared it to a dance. He said that once one person triggered one core fear whether intentionally or not, the other person would intentionally or not trigger the other’s core fear. And then they would go back and forth hitting core fears intentionally. Couples need to know when to prevent or walk away from this dance of stepping on the mines.
It’s funny that this happens so often because many adults know how this works because they have children. They know which children have thick skin and which children are very sensitive. Michael Jackson was considered the most sensitive child of his family. Even though Joe Jackson was perhaps equally cruel or strict on all the children who were in the music business, Joe’s harshness took its greatest toll on little Michael. Parents know which children can hear a harmless comment about their grades or clothes and which ones can’t. I know of a family where there is a child who is considered the sensitive one. If her mom says that she doesn’t like her daughter’s outfit, she’ll likely go and change it. But if that same mother told her sister the same exact thing in the same exact way, she wouldn’t even think about changing clothes. Insults and offenses can roll off of one person’s back and sink into the another person. Some people are just emotionally stronger than others.
So how come these same adults don’t realize that the same dynamic comes into play with their significant other? If you are wise enough to treat your children differently based on their emotional sensitivity, then how come you don’t have enough sense to do the same with your significant other? The same sensitive woman or man you are dating is the same almost as that child they were years ago with their mom and/or dad. They may not be as sensitive because thick skin comes with age, but they still will likely have the same core fears. Core fears are something that God has to heal in us. Treat your significant other the same way their mother or father would treat them knowing each of their children’s sensitive areas.
That’s why I think that marital counseling is a beautiful and wise thing to do. I know that people didn’t need marital counseling back in the bible days, but we have so many issues in America that it seems almost imperative in order to keep an American couple from divorcing. Marital counseling can teach you about different love styles, communication skills, conflict resolution skills, core fears, etc.
So the next time you get into an argument, stop talking long enough to figure out if you are really thinking this person is a jerk who is intentionally hurting your feelings; or if you are just overly sensitive about particular things because of your core fears. Save your relationship if it’s worth saving!