Avoiding Escalation

IMG_0746I must confess that In our earlier less mature years my spouse and I got into some acutely  hurtful and emotional arguments.  As we let the arguments escalate, our words became increasingly more hateful and destructive.  I usually ended up in tears, screaming at him, trying to convince him of my point of view.  Somehow, my brain tricked me into thinking this would work, but it never did.

One day, we made a conscious decision to no longer allow our arguments to escalate.  It just wasn’t healthy and it never got us anywhere.  From then on when one of us came to realize we had lapsed into personal attacks and strayed from an honest mature discussion of the issues with the goal of reaching a resolution, we stopped our part in the exchange.  Then we would say something like, “I need to take a break from this discussion until we are calmer.”  Then we would take separate walks or a drive or go outside and pull weeds — whatever we needed to get us back on steady ground.  This allowed us to cool off and get a better perspective of the discussion at hand.  For us, it usually took just a few minutes to an hour or so.  But whatever it takes, it is worth it.  Now after decades of being married, this physical separation isn’t necessary for us.  We can simply state that we need to have a moment to ourselves before resuming the discussion.

A particular time comes to mind.  We were on a road trip, sitting next to each other in close quarters.  Our discussion had begun to escalate.  No longer tolerant of ugly exchanges, I was able to state my need for quiet. I sought the thoughts of the Voice of Love within and waited and listened.  When I opened my eyes , my husband had transformed before my eyes.  Gone was the villain I had seen just moments before.  He was replaced by a kind man who sincerely asked for my forgiveness.  And,with all the tension released from my body, I too apologized for my part in the emotional exchange.

The decision to no longer tolerate destruction arguments is the beginning of a much happier home.  It may feel awkward at first.  It may take practice; however, a growing harmony in the relationship will confirm the wisdom of your choice.

Let me remember that I need not tolerate destructive exchanges.


2 comments to Avoiding Escalation

  • E. Marie

    You must have been watching me this week, Anne. Laura and I rarely get into this kind of escalation anymore. BUT, at work I have a very simpatico supervisor and I think I have been taking advantage of her kindness. Every few months I go into an explosive rant about the company that employees me. I did it again this week. Well, I think I will use your wisdom.”It just (isn’t) healthy and it never (gets) me anywhere.”
    THANK YOU, Anne.

  • Linda Campbell

    This is the single most powerful lesson of all! Beautifully written. Namaste…..

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