I can’t believe I said that! We’ve all said stupid things to our partner. I once said, “Hey, do plan on wearing these dirty clothes, because they’re dirty.” Dumb. Sooner or later your partner is going to say something to you that will hurt your feelings or make you mad. I want to give you a secret that will DRAMATICALLY improve your response and make your relationship even stronger.
Ready? Nothing. Say NOTHING. Walk away, remind yourself of the stupid things you said in your past and give them a pass. When our emotions are peaking we say things that hurt others. That is life. I’ve done it, my wife has done it, if you are breathing, you’ve done it! So, why not give your spouse a break for once?
I know, you might be thinking, but Dr. Hattabaugh, you don’t know how ugly my partner can be! Maybe, but I know you being ugly back is not going to positively improve your relationship. The damage you do when you continue to “snipe” is considerable. Pretty soon, you don’t even remember who started it and the walls go up. Sometimes the first comment is a joke, but if it is sarcastic, it cuts.
“But I get so angry when he says that.” Yep, why walking away is even more important. When you walk away, you take out the front “leg” of their comment, they in essence “fall forward”. They are stuck with their words instead of yours, keeping their comment in front and hopefully ending the battle. Whether this is a major battle or a small skirmish, silence can create a long enough truce to build bridges of apology. It doesn’t always, but at least you have created the time for that to happen. Immediately responding does not develop the opportunity for positive change.
I know that there is a time to stand up to something your partner says, but imagine how great your relationship would be if you stopped arguing over everything. This creates that opportunity. Would you be happier in your relationship if you didn’t fight? I hear that all the time from people. This is the ONLY quick method of dealing with constant verbal attacks. I hope you can see that trying this will create a space in your relationship to truly hear each other’s hearts.
So, how are you going to make yourself try this? It might be helpful to tell your partner. Even better, if you have a habit of over-responding, you might start with an apology. Yes, an apology. Tell them you are sorry for always reacting to what they say, even if they say something stupid (don’t tell them that!). Tell them the next time they do, you are going to walk away. Then do it! You may find that most of the time they don’t even realize how hurtful their words were, and maybe giving them a moment to realize this, they will retract them. They may not, but your job is to make your relationship the BEST it can be. So try silence, it may change your life!
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