One of the lessons that I have learned from my marriage is that in an intimate relationship one can experience few and elusive moments of bliss, which are amazing, and much more frequent instances where upset and arguments arise.
In his book “The Power of Now” Eckart Tolle says that an intimate relationship is a “spiritual practice” and that “a relationship is not here to make you happy but to make you conscious”.
So, far from being pure bliss, an intimate relationship is an opportunity to sculpt one’s emotional muscles, it’s a spiritual and psychological practice….at least based on my experience.
There are many reasons why arguments arise, but what I have found is that it always boils down to the fact that there are instances in which we are in a bad mood and our partner becomes an easy target and start blaming the other person for how he or she is failing to meet our needs, especially if our partner is adding fuel to the fire of our bad mood by saying or doing something that doesn’t sit well with our already negative state.
What we fail to realize when we believe that our partner is failing to meet our needs for happiness is that we are the only ones who are responsible for our own happiness.
Happiness is not a tangible fact, rather it’s a feeling, an emotion that depends on what we choose to focus on.
In an ideal scenario an emotionally developed person should take responsibility for his/her feelings and not blame them on their partner.
But what happens in real life is that a negative mood often lead to arguments.
What’s the solution when the atmosphere gets intense?
What I have learned from the school of hard knocks is that there are basically the following ways to deal with a very angry spouse.
The first is to avoid engaging our spouse if the atmosphere is too intense, which literally means leaving the scene of the discussion or calmly trying to tell our spouse to postpone the discussion until the intense feelings and emotions subside.
However there are instances in which, even if we see it fit to leave the scene, our partner doesn’t give us this chance and wants to engage us then and there.
When this happens the best course of action is listening, allowing our partner to freely release his/her negative energy without trying to defend ourselves (even if we are right) or correct our partner, as this would only add more fuel to the fire.
In other words, what needs to happen is that we acknowledge that our partner is having those feelings and simply allow him/her to vent those without trying to deny his/her reality.
If we can maintain enough self control and allow our partner to fully release his/her energy, listen attentively and, instead of venting back, blaming them for having misinterpreted our behavior, defending, denying or anything like that, say something along the lines of “tell me more”, “go on, I am listening” and, once our partner is done with his/her monologue and verbal attack we say something that conveys the idea that we are taking responsibility for how our partner feels like “I am sorry for having said/done…..and having made you feel……”.
So, the whole idea here is that we allow our partner to fully express him/herself by saying “and what else?” or “tell me more” without interrupting, defending, correcting or denying and then apologizing for having put fuel on the fire of his/her feelings by saying or doing something that in that moment was a source of upset.
Even if what happened is that we were sincerely trying to do the right thing and we had woken up with the best intentions but inadvertently did or said something that our partner labelled as upsetting and we feel that the only reason why our partner is upset is because he or she is dwelling on the worst possible meaning, that he or she is completely misinterpreting our intentions, the wise thing to do is to always acknowledge and validate our partner’s feelings and not try to deny, justify, minimize or correct in any way because that would just not work.
The reality might be that our partner is overreacting, misinterpreting and misjudging our motives, yet the circumstances are that our partner feels how she or he feels and this is hard to change by explaining, justifying, correcting etc.
What happens if we do any of these things is that we are subtly blaming our partner and blame shuts people, especially angry people, off, it doesn’t make them want to hear what we have to say and the argument can only get out of control and turn into something really really nasty.
Hope it helps….