Five Steps for Navigating Arguments

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Five Steps for Navigating Arguments
One of the dynamics that plays out with long term relationships is that you get into arguments


Lila here~ One of the dynamics that plays out with long term relationships is that you get into arguments.  And not just any kind of arguments, but the kind that push every last button you have.  The fight may begin innocently enough, but it escalates to the point where you feel totally unsafe around your partner.
     The arguments I’m talking about are the ones that trigger a core wound from childhood.  In fact, they usually trigger the core wound over and over; they’re the kind of arguments that keep coming up to give you the opportunity to heal that core wound.  These core wound arguments really get your blood boiling.  Something your partner says triggers an early feeling of being unloved, unlovable, or unworthy in some way.  Your inner child freaks out, and your body has a “fight or flight” response. 
     The fight or flight response manifests in a number of ways.  Your blood pressure increases, breathing becomes shallow and rapid, your heart pounds, and you either withdraw (flight) or lash out with hurtful words (fight) you’ll likely regret later.  You no longer have the ability to listen to what your partner is saying, and you don’t have the ability to monitor your own inner monologue.
     It’s obvious that no healing will come when you’re in an emotional state like that.  You need to give yourself a chance to come back from the edge, get some clarity around what’s triggering you, and figure out how to heal from it.
     This happened to me recently and I went through a process that I think will be helpful to share with other people and perhaps get someone out of that horrible loop of those endless arguments that make you feel like a small, unloved child.
     Here are the steps I went through:
Stop.  Give yourself permission to disengage, but don’t just run away.  Tell your partner that you need to have a time out, and take it.  I told my partner, “Something’s happening to me emotionally.  I’m not sure what’s going on, but I need to figure it out.  Can we finish this conversation tomorrow?”
Use your time out to really tune into your feelings.  When was the last time you felt like this?  Think back to the earliest time you can remember feeling the way you did during the argument.  What did you make it mean?  Write down your observations so you remember them.   
Once you’ve calmed down (which might take an hour or a week), return to the issue with your partner.  Let him or her know what you’ve figured out. Talk about what triggers you and how you want to deal with it in the future.
Request change.  If your partner has a habit that triggers you, ask them to change their habit.  Own your part of it, too.  You could say, “When you ask me where I’ve been, I feel like you don’t trust me.  Can you give me time to tell you where I’ve been on my own terms?”
Be receptive to changes your partner may request.  The thing about triggers is that couples usually have matching ones.  That’s why the arguments escalate so quickly; you’re both feeling abandoned or unloved at the same time.       
 

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