When couples argue, they often forget the most important part of the disagreement…the successful make-up process. It means coming back to the table to discuss what went wrong in the first place and how to resolve it. Couples should never avoid coming back to discuss an argument they had. Without their input on what happened, or what they thought happened, some valuable lessons may never be learned. But how does a couple revisit some of the hurt, learn from each other, about themselves, and then move on graciously?
Daily battles are generally due to a miscommunication. He said this, but meant that. She maybe used a word that triggered his memory of some past conflict, and they are off and running. Voices get raised, feelings get hurt, and when we are stressed, the thought process ceases to exist.
During this time, we want the floor. We want to be heard and we will do anything -- I mean anything to get it! So, we talk over each other, say some nasty things to shut the other one up, or go into complete 'ignoring' mode. But after all is said and done, how do we go back and fix the crack in the foundation of our relationship? How do we move forward and become better than we were before the argument?
One of the hardest things for a couple to do is to come back to the argument and discuss what went wrong. We believe that our most intimate partner is always supposed to know what we mean and is “never supposed” to hurt us. We are sometimes so shocked by what comes out of their mouth that we don’t give them a chance to explain. We decide that they meant to hurt us and that's all there is to it. …even if our hearts know the truth.
When couples don’t come back to the table to discuss the issues in a calm thoughtful way, everything that was left said in anger gets filed in the “unresolved” folder in our subconscious, only to be brought out again when triggered by some similar hurt. It might take years of repeated arguments to finally get to the truth of what hurts.
WHAT DOES ANGER DO TO A COUPLE?
It can make us stronger or weaken the fabric of our intimacy. It all depends on how it is handled. If we can learn something about each other and accept those differences, it will help us grow even stronger.
Anger is a normal human emotion. When we are stimulated by rejection, or feeling misunderstood, ridiculed or shamed in some way, we respond with defensiveness which resembles anger.
But couples who truly love their partners want them to be happy and content, not worried and resentful, so resolution is necessary in order to understand and be understood. This is what allows for forgiveness.
Marriage and family therapists can help couples to untangle what they said during an argument versus what they really meant to say. They help them to unscramble the feelings from their thoughts and give them the tools to help them past the hurt. They can also assist in helping each of them hear what each other really wants to say.
HOW MUCH SPACE AND TIME SHOULD YOU GIVE EACH OTHER AFTER AN ARGUMENT?
This is personal because it depends on whether you are an extrovert or an introvert. How you witnessed your own parents deal with arguments may also taint how you handle them. For strong healthy couples, the rule of thumb is to wait anywhere from 10 minutes to 24 hours. Give yourself a chance to calm down, de-stress, and think about what you couldn’t get across to your partner when you were angry. One thing is for sure: never leave the reconvene time unspoken. It may well be that you are afraid to bring it up again for fear of more pain, but if you leave it up to whenever, it implies that you are uninterested in resolution …or your partner’s feelings. This is true for people who want to control their partners by using the anger against them.
Be sure when you do take a break from each other that you continue to say “I love you” even though you might still be angry. The anger will go away, but the memory of your intimate partner avoiding or stonewalling you can sting for years to come.
When you do come back to the table, sit face to face and hold hands. Start with a kiss, an “I’m sorry for my part” and an “I love you.” Touching the finger tips or face is also important because it calms us down and allows us to think about our words in the safety net of our loved one rather than focus on the pain we felt.
SHOULD YOU ALWAYS SAY YOUR SORRY?
Absolutely yes! Even if you believe that the other person was more out of line then you, you had a part in the argument too! If you loved and respected each other before the argument, why would you love each other less now? You can love each other through the difficult times by being partners in all things…including working to get back on track and make your relationship stronger.
After all, no one wants to stand out there naked and alone, and when you are partners you, agree to support each other for better or worse. If you practice your relationship building skills, the worse will only ever be a possibility...not a probability!
~Wendy Pegan, Relationship Builder