"To me, contentment is where you can work out a way for both parties to be content, neither unhappy. This often requires a creative mind, but it can be done."
Knowledge Is Power
Know Your Boundaries and Your Partner's
I do always say "knowledge is power," and in this case, it couldn't be more true! Remember when you were a kid -- those of you with siblings -- and you learned that popping your chewing gum or embarrassing your sibling upset them, and you first realized you could use it to your advantage, by doing it just to upset them? Great advice: never do that to a spouse! Sure, learn what infuriates them, and do use it to your advantage, but your advantage here would be to avoid it and in turn, avoid being jack-slapped!
Does your partner know what sends you into a blind, raging fury? Are they careful to avoid doing/saying what triggers you? I don’t normally go over-the-top angry, but there is something that will have me seeing red and that happens to be when someone gives me demands. During arguments or just a strained, less than happy day, being demanded to do or not do something is best to be avoided because it’s the one thing that truly sends me unnecessarily over the healthy level of angry.
If my partner demands something from me during an argument or even a little frustrated moment, I’ll give him the warning with my eyes or words, and usually kindly. It’s the warning. Then, if it happens again, I’ll step it up and say, “Remember, don’t give me demands, it sends me off the deep end and I don’t want to become that angry.” He rarely goes further, but there has been a particular, nasty incident, a big, out of control misunderstanding actually. One that was so silly that had we gotten to the root of the problem, went and just asked a specific person if what was suspected of me was true, the entire thing never would’ve happened, but instead we put that off until a nasty fight had long begun.
Absolutely know what sets your partner off and let them know what sends you over the edge. It may seem a funny topic for a new relationship, but it’s pretty important to have a discussion with a partner on what sets each other off.
When being given demands in an argument, I've warned my partner that calmness is the key. I told him I’d been calm and civil with him throughout the fight and I should be given the same respect. When someone is overly angry though, something has to be done. You should address what calms you. Know what angers you, and act on lessening it to a degree where you can be civil with the person you love and not do/say things that will hurt them for a long time to come. It’s rarely worth it to get that angry.
Say you can’t tolerate when someone gets in your face repeatedly during arguments, you need to voice that to your partner, let them know that that type of behavior makes it hard for you to continue being calm. Respect is the key here. Respect and control. My partner could go from calm to furious if I said he was a POS spouse, and of course I do not feel he is a POS spouse, but during heated moments, I can admit that it’s crossed my mind to yell it! I avoid that though. Like I said, hurt feelings can linger for much longer than some arguments or tempers.
If it helps, find what makes you feel the most relieved, and think of that particular thing or activity that brings you relief and comfort. This actually is one method that kept me calm just tonight during an argument, probably not the healthiest thought in the world to think, but it’s what brought me back to Earth, back to reality and kept steam and fire from being cast out my ears.
So knowing the things your partner and you yourself cannot tolerate is important, but you should also strive to respect their ways. Don’t purposefully say or do the things that make them irate. Say your spouse has very angered feelings towards being called hateful names such as "whore" or something hateful about their body/person. The best thing to do is never cross that line. It's that simple. Leave the room. Or if you must, come up with a really sweet name that "represents" what you feel like saying, and use it instead. It could even lessen the tension; say you replaced the ugly word with "kitten" or "winking beaver," how much could those words hurt? Not to mention, you might even find the fight turns into a hee-hawing laughing match instead!
I’m a thinker and planner. I like to plan what I’d do in certain situations, so for those of you like me, this may be helpful. Most of us have certain topics that tend to bring a conversation to a boiling point, and most of us know exactly what the topic is. For instance, say the one thing that always ends in argument is the topic of money. However, you cannot avoid talking about such important matters, so what I like to do when I know there’s a topic that will definitely be brought up and cause turmoil, I take careful time to think through what I’ll say and how I can say it so that it doesn’t cause my partner to steam. This has helped me so much! When you’ve planned what you want/need to say, and can go over it in your mind in a calm way, you’re more likely to be calm when the time comes for it to be brought up.
Another thing I recommend is reading the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray. For those of you who have read it, I highly recommend reading bits of it with your spouse, especially the parts that apply to you. Reading with a partner is a bonding experience, and a book like this is a good way to do a little bonding and understanding of each other in a peaceful manner.
The reason I recommend that book is because several years ago, it was recommended to me! When my partner and I first met, I was taking GED school classes and I’d had a close relationship with the teacher. During our first year of dating – my partner and me, not my teacher and me – he began taking classes with me. There were a few instances where we’d been in the midst of stress. You know how it is, the first year together, just learning about each other and such. The teacher became a sort of mentor for the both of us, and during stressful times, she’d talk with us and often give advice on things like partnership. She lent me the book as well as The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, PhD, but both books provided me and him with a lot of insight on how to better communicate and be peaceful.
Better To Let It Out Than Let It Stay In
Get It Out
Know how to approach a situation when you need to get something off your chest. Try to avoid going into a raging fury and spouting out all the things your loved one did wrong. Try and start off calmly, and even with a compliment, if it’s rightly earned. Say your loved one did something nice, but in the process happened to strike a nerve too. Start off with, “Your efforts mean so much to me, and you obviously really love me. Thank you. I did feel a bit uncomfortable though, when this happened or when you did this.” Perhaps he/she did not intend to strike a chord, but instead was trying to be kind? In that case you could add that you know they didn’t intend to hurt/anger/upset you, but you want to bring it up to avoid it from happening in the future.
Say a nasty argument does happen. Let’s face it, we cannot avoid them all. Here is a strategy I find that often gives both parties little room for extended anger. Example: your partner does something that upsets you. You bring it up, and your partner gets upset because you came across as un-pleasable or something along those lines. Simply stop and ask him/her “what made you upset/frustrated about me bringing up the incident that made me sad/angry/uncomfortable?” Give them time to answer, and then in simple words, you tell your spouse exactly what it was that upset you. This often gets my spouse and me to the root of things quickly, and gives us both little room for unnecessary yelling. If all else fails, perhaps the "game" I wrote about in a previous article will be of help.
When all is said and done, an apology may be in order. If you’re like me, you aren’t very good with the apology part. I don’t know when I developed this little inconvenience, but somewhere in my life, I have found being apologized to or apologizing is uncomfortable. I don’t like apologizing because I feel, well, stupid! Not because I feel proud or something, but perhaps I am scared of the super overly sappy part that comes afterward. I have yet to figure that one out. But I can apologize much easier than I can take an apology. I personally prefer to show my partner that I am sorry. I have no problem saying “I’m so sorry” for any fault except when it comes to a nasty fight, where the sappy part could follow the apology. I guess I still need time to process. There are times when an apology is totally necessary, and it would just be downright rude not to say it. I normally let my partner know his apology is accepted; let’s move on before he feels the need to “prove” that he’s sorry. There’s no need for that. I know he loves me, so simply telling me “maybe I did overreact” is plenty apology for me.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
I then want to see change. Actions speak louder than words. I want to see that he will avoid doing whatever he’s apologizing for again, and I certainly make an effort to do the same. I believe in forever improving. I’m often changing my own ways to find what works between us.
Our common problem with communicating tends to be this:
He feels I go about it the wrong way when I am upset. I get quiet and start thinking. He flips and wants to know what is wrong.
I think I’m doing what is best by keeping quiet because I’m hoping in a while, my feelings will subside and everything will go back to being happy-slappy. No communication needed.
But he senses something is wrong, deep inside his male-can-sense-crazed-woman radar. So he presses on, I blurt it out and surprise him. He feels defensive.
So as hard as it was, I tried slowly making myself go about it differently, and it was hard and slow! I would try and casually say “Ugh. It just chaps my behind when such and such happens. It kind of feels like you didn’t want me around (or whatever the problem is).” The key here is saying it calmly and casually, without blame. He then responds the similarly and probably with something along the lines of “Of course I wanted you around! What on Earth gave you that idea?”
And then I’d probably say something like “Well, when you were talking to such and such, you guys seemed like I was just in the way of the conversation.”
And he’d likely respond with “We didn’t mean that at all. Such and such just didn’t want to be loud in public.” This is followed with a hug and “I love you.”
That is a good example of a similar happening between us. We’re often able to quickly recover after simply saying “it felt like you were…” and then clearing the air and moving on, but that's not to say we don't have bigger fights. We even did that tonight, but I'm here typing this after the fact that it happened and we were able to regroup and do some moving on.
There are also more sticky situations, and when one or both parties are in a plumb sour mood, it may just be a heated argument no matter what. In that case, the best thing is keeping it simple, reminding each other you love them and you want to resolve the issue so it doesn’t happen in the future, and that you’re willing to bend a little, and then sleeping on it if you have to. We normally resolve before bed, but this has happened and the next day, we were able to resolve and have a happy day.
Another solution to a lengthy fight would be to find an activity. A drive, a walk, a secluded spot that ensures you some alone time, even if it’s a long mini-road trip -- that is often our method and it works, just remember: never bitch-slap the driver!
A Few Things To Live By
Never go to bed angry or without saying I love you. Often times, during an argument near bed time, we’ll be likely to realize it’s less of a big deal than we originally thought, and are quicker to be kinder and easier to communicate with because we want to get to the “I love you.”
Touch. Another thing that will totally take me from ranging crazed woman to soft, getting happier, sane woman is when I’m just having a complete flip-out about something, is him putting his hands on my face to look him in the eye and saying “Don’t you remember? I love you. You don’t have anything to worry about.” and clearing up whatever I was freaked about. Even while arguing, if one party can find it in them to say “I love you” sincerely, it will bring the other to a far more approachable, less angered level.
Sometimes I’ll be flipped out about nothing, but my partner will smile and assure me I’m just over-thinking or over-worrying, he loves me and so on and all is well. That’s for certain situations. We all know every argument, fight or worry has its own ways of being resolved. This last “method” probably wouldn’t cut it if your spouse went out and had an affair of course, but for the minor things, it is helpful.
Choose Your Fights Wisely. If it was your last days together, would this thing matter at all? I know that sounds intense and possibly morbid, but I’ve found peace with this thinking at times. I tend to get crazy thoughts and worries if I let myself, so allowing myself to think deeply about whether or not this worry or thing I’m mad about would matter one lick if it were our last days together can give me a totally new perspective
A lot of times, I come out of my ten-minute-thinking session just fine. I mean if my worry is over my partner jokingly saying I am frustrating, I can often come to realize that it’s not a big enough deal for me to worry myself over by using the “would this matter if…” method.
Avoid the words “always” and “never.” I read something by Guy Harris once about conflict, and at the time, I didn’t realize just how much affect those two words could really have during conflict, but he was right. I remember one particular fight when my partner said, “It’s always about what you want,” and my mind went straight to Guy’s words -- avoid saying the words "never" and "always."
Being told "It's always about what you want," both pissed me off and hurt my feelings because it made me feel that I was selfish, when in fact, I’m a very self-less person. Instead of saying that I was making this one particular thing about my own feelings, I was told that it’s always about my wants. To be honest with you guys, that made me feel bad for a while.
So I try to take Guy’s advice and avoid the words “always” and “never.” However, there’s another big, nasty word in particular that I’ve always avoided. My momma actually taught me this when I was just a small girl. I had gotten so upset that for the very first time, I said the words “I hate you.” She told me to never say that to someone because it’s hardly ever true, but will hurt them for a very long time. And that's true. Not many people will ever forget being told "I hate you." Those are the kind of words that stick.
To this day, I’m still cautious about the word and rarely use it unless I’m absolutely serious. I really don’t think that sentence should ever be used between people who love each other. It’s very hurtful, but hard to not say it sometimes when you’re so heated. If you're in the habit of saying it, I'd recommend finding another way to release your angered feelings. Perhaps you could work on changing the "I hate you" to "I hate when you..."
Things To Keep In Mind
In a study done by John Gottman, PhD, it showed that men tend to take a longer recovery time from verbal conflict than women. Remember men, if you need to take your time, fine. Express that you need that time in order to regroup. Women, as much as you may want to yell, "You a**hole! You always leave when it's my turn to talk," try to see this as time to regroup your own self. Write! That is my favorite method during this moment. As much as I hate to say this, this is a lot like how my night went tonight. He wants to go off outside and it's likely that I'm throwing tweezers or whatever happens to be in my hand, at the door as he's leaving and yelling "You a**hole! You always walk out when it's my turn to talk!" And even more embarrassing to admit, grabbing my phone to text him after he's walked out and continue my bitch-fest! But seriously, it always ends up being a good thing. I'm a writer, so scribbling down every feeling and thought has been my method of de-angering since I knew how to scribble. This has gotten me into trouble though, when I forget it's best to toss out my angered writings. But I've also recently learned that a stash of acrylic (washable!) paint and a wall protected in un-folded cardboard boxes is highly therapeutic. No, that is not green paint splattered all over my typing hands!
So when taking a break during an argument that got heated, use it to your advantage. Let go of some anger and when you guys return, calmly talk it out. But do away with the artwork first.
In any marriage or relationship, there will be disagreements. Let’s face it. God did not create everyone to feel, think and behave the same way, so we have to learn the best way to go about disagreements when we’re involved with someone.
Some disagreements may even be deal-breakers. For instance, say you have one person who wants monogamy/commitment in the relationship and another who wants nothing to do with a monogamous, committed relationship. That creates more than a problem, and such differences can and are deal-breakers.
However, we also have disagreements that are minor enough to be struggles to overcome rather than reasons to split. For instance, say one person doesn’t enjoy travelling in the least, but their spouse has made travelling a part-time hobby and must travel. That is big, but it can be worked out to where both parties are content.
Contentment, in my opinion, is not where one person sacrifices and has to be unhappy in a situation such as the above example. To me, contentment is where you can work out a way for both parties to be content, neither unhappy. This often requires a creative mind, but it can be done.
The absolute most important thing I have to say of all is this: If you truly have no intention of committing to a person and being able to give them love and kindness, then you have no business intentionally entering a relationship with a person who needs those things. Let’s face it; most people do need those things.
If you are simply not ready to settle down, commit, or share your blasted jacket from time to time, then do yourself and any potential spouse a favor and do not go there. Wait until you are ready.
This somewhat harsh chunk of advice came to me last week, actually. My partner and I went to Panama and met a man in the same condo who told us that he’d been married to his wife for over 12 years and they’d “Never one time had a single fight. Never!” I responded with “Well, that is awesome!” But the man actually meant that they did not fight. I just assumed one of the spouses shut up and put up. Keep quiet and there won’t be problems. Surprisingly, in many couples there is a person who efficiently avoids fighting at all costs, and in return, pays for it by hurting in silence. Not talking when you're truly hurting or upset is disastrous. How can something be fixed if it's never brought to the surface? You can't keep quiet and expect your loved one to know your needs.
Anyways though, once we got in the vehicle, my partner said to me, “You know how I can tell our relationship must be better than that couple who said they’ve never fought?”
I said, “Well, besides the fact that one of them must just never say when something upsets them, what?”
He said, “Because the man said they’ve never had a fight and how can you have a good relationship if there’s never enough communication for at least one person to get upset over something?”
While we may be far off on simple assumptions, I think he was somewhat right. If you never fight at all, it’d seem to me you must not be very close or either neither of you have any boundaries or feelings. Even the most non-confrontational of us have things that bug us enough to speak up, and speak up you shall, but pick your battles wisely, my friends (straight from the mouth of my mother, that last part about picking battles.)
These are the things that I kind of live by when it comes to conflict with a loved one. I hope they at least make you re-evaluate the way you work when conflict arises, or perhaps even bring to your awareness things you could work on.
What do you do to avoid raging arguments? What techniques work for you? Leaving the situation until calmness arrives or is there something else? I hope you'll share your own ways of avoiding excessive anger in the comments section!