Is it the beginning of the end, or a new beginning?
Many years ago I had a conversation with my wife that could have ended our marriage. And I have seen many couples engaged in the exact same cycle of relationship destruction.
Here’s what happened:
My wife said something to me and I responded back. She accused me of having a “tone”. Who, me? So now I am defending my “no tone”. She now says something back with a “tone” in her voice. So I escalate with more of the same. She responds raising her voice and now I respond raising my voice even more. She raises her voice and says something not so pleasant to me. So I raise my voice further and say something not so nice to her. Now we are in a real heated argument. About what? I have no idea.
This conversation is almost at the threshold of relationship destruction. And fortunately I realize it.
What typically happens at this level is that someone says something they wish they didn’t say, and the other person says something that can never be forgotten nor forgiven. It is devastating to trust and respect in the relationship.
When escalation occurs regularly, the connection can be severed so completely that it cannot be repaired without outside help. While trust and respect have been thrown away, intimacy also vanishes and the relationship begins to die.
Here’s how to escape the escalation:
In my situation above, I had the presence of mind to realize that if this continued that “we” were in trouble. The relationship “we”, and that if we continued down this path, I wasn’t sure I could turn it around. That was a defining moment. I made a decision that I didn’t have to be “right”. My willingness to engage her differently also made the relationship more solid in an intangible way, because we both knew that type of escalation would never happen again.
I thought about why I was with her, why I loved her, why I wanted to be with her, and what I wanted our relationship to be about. I immediately began to think about my vision of our relationship. And maybe it saved us.
I immediately softened my “tone”, and said “I love you so much, I don’t want to argue with you.” Did she escalate further? Of course not. She immediately softened her tone to match mine. The argument was over. It could have easily gone the other way had I wanted to continue to prove that I was more “right” than she was.
I have seen couples fight about who brought more baggage into the marriage and other truly silly things. If you are fighting about who is more right, the argument will escalate and no one will ever win. Even if you think you won, you’ll feel bad because they are miserable. And certainly this will cause the relationship to suffer.
So if you find yourself in a similar situation; soften up, lighten up. Access the wisdom of your heart. Immediately shift your tone. Get out of that head of yours that wants to prove you’re “right, and get into your heart and why you love this person. It might just save your relationship.
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