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Dragons: When What You Argue About Is Not What You Are Arguing About

“What?! You didn’t pick up the dry cleaning? You drove right by and didn’t stop and get it?”

Rose was upset. Her face turned red as her voice rose in volume.

Bert defended himself, “I knew I was going to be late for supper so I figured I’d get the dry cleaning tomorrow.”

The excuse didn’t work. Rose was clearly mad and it seemed like nothing was going to calm her down.

I am sure you are not surprised when I tell you that the evening did not end well for Bert and Rose. Bert played video games in the family room and Rose put the kids to bed alone.

Later that night Bert and Rose gathered the toys and dirty dishes and began talking.

“Why were you so upset about the dry cleaning?”asked Bert. “It seems like we weren’t arguing about the dry cleaning, like something else was going on.” This time, before reacting, Rose began to think, “what was going on for me?”

Remembering what she learned from the Safe Haven Couples Seminar, she slowly answered, hoping Bert would listen with understanding and not prove how wrong she was for getting so upset. “I guess when you don’t help me, I feel all the burden falls on me. It reminds me of when I was growing up and because I was the oldest I had all the responsibility for my siblings. I feel this injustice, almost as if the scales have tipped and it becomes an issue of what is fair or not, and I question whether I am being taken advantage of. That’s when I get mad.”

Bert lowered his eyes then looked up. “Thank you for sharing that, it helps me get to know you. Otherwise I only see your anger, and I conclude that you are unreasonable. Then I just shut you out. Somehow knowing the story behind your reaction helps me have understanding, as though I want to comfort you and care for you rather than push away from you.”

What Rose was discovering were her dragons. This is her fear, her vulnerability, what she is sensitive to, the meaning that gets put on motives and events. We all have dragons.

They are formed during the years of our growing up and over the course of our life.

  • Maybe you had to take care of your siblings, and now you are sensitive to having all the burdens fall on you, as with Rose in our opening story.

  • Maybe you had an absent father and you are now sensitive to your husband’s late nights.

  • Maybe your mom hovered telling you what to do all the time and now you are sensitive to your wife’s instructions and she feels ‘controlling.’

  • Maybe as a middle child you felt ‘invisible’ and not seen and so sensitive to not being included or noticed.

  • Maybe you made bad choices when younger, you were promiscuous, did drugs, stole, or went to strip clubs and you now fear if people found they would shame you and you feel you are a disappointment, not good enough.

  • Maybe you were neglected or abused as a child and now sensitive to voices escalating during an argument and afraid of things getting out of hand. Or afraid that those closest to you will eventually let you down and hurt you.

We are not destined to live with the influence of our dragons on our lives.

We are able to tame our dragons, that is, identify our dragons, become aware of where they came from, and how we respond when they arise.

We can heal hurts and disappointments from our past and replace the negative message of our dragons with more positive truthful ones. And by doing so, we can make better choices in life and in our relationships.

Stay tuned as we will continue our series and share how to tame our dragons and so make better decisions in our life and relationships.

If you would like a worksheet on how to identify your dragons,

please email us at:

We will do our best to answer questions, provide insight and encouragement on the topics that matter most to you.

As always, keep us in mind when you would like a marriage intensive, a personal growth intensive, or a 6-week Safe Haven Marriage coaching by phone.

Growing together,

Dr. Sharon May (Safe Haven originator and has conducted over 700 Safe Haven marriage intensives)

Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd (featured on Fox News and in the New York Times)

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