Conflicted Couples: Interrupting Yourself
I am a big believer in apologies. This is what happens after the conflict. “I am sorry. Please forgive me. It’s my fault. Can we talk about it?” is the apology that seems to make most sense to me. But apologies don’t interrupt the conflict – they follow it. And by then a lot of damage may have been done.
Here are some interruptions that I use in my counselling practice (and that I have learned from John Gottman and others). See if they make sense to you.
#1 – Start the conflict softly. Bring up the conflict tactfully, caringly and working towards a positive solution. Do it sitting down. Playing a full orchestra of emotions and doing an all-out attack means that both partners are likely to feel like losers.
#2 – Sooth yourself before, during and following the conflict. Turn your soul temperature down. Imagine yourself with your hand on the rheostat and be in charge of your inner heat.
#3 – Build bridges – lots of them (maybe 3!). Accept the point of view or intended goodness of your partner. Say something like, “That’s a good point you make.” This builds a pretty good bridge. And smiling warmly helps, too. Try building 3 bridges in a row and see what happens!
#4 – Direct your energy vector “up” once every 3 minutes. Say something warm, welcoming and winsome often. Something funny too, and occasionally concede a point. Touch kindly.
#5 – Time-outs for 15 or 20 minutes help. And during the time-out write down something truthful and thoughtful about you (not a time to make a case against your partner or be defensive). And when you re-engage say, “Thanks for the time out. I would like to tell you about me.” Then read your notes.
There is a lot more. You might want to check out some of my articles on conflict and especially an article entitled “Communication Covenant for Couples in Conflict.”