How do early exits prevent angry arguments? First and foremost, as I said earlier, there's the one-hand clapping principle. If you are not there to hear your partner's anger, there'll be no arguments. In addition, people who get mad think that anger will get them what they want. Your exits may teach your loved one that quiet conversations do this much better. In any case, exits will keep you both safe from the damage anger can cause. Hard Work Ahead: Are Relationships Really Worthwhile?
When you explain your new exits plan to your partner, don't expect him to like it. He's likely to say something like, "Don't you turn your back on me!" Fine. If he doesn't like seeing your back, he's welcome to simultaneously turn his back on you as he walks to his pre-arranged quiet place. Explain also that if he follows you into another room, you will go outside for a walk. (always have your purse and jacket readily available)
If he continues to follow you in such a manner, you will go in your car. Staying away for half an hour hopefully gives you both time to calm down. If he's still mad after this, then repeat the departure, this time staying away longer.
Your partner may ask, "How will I calm down?" My relationship skills website, PowerOfTwoMarriage.com, teaches self-soothing skills. The first three days on the program are free, and you are welcome to check it out. With your new plan of action, you'll surely wonder, "who has the power?"
The angry person has been in control up to this point. But with your exits, you gain the upper hand. You can't control him, but you can control what you do.
One further suggesion: be sure your exit starts with your legs, not your mouth. Talking about whether or not to exit is a mistake. Skip the words, and skip any door-slamming. Just quietly stand up and leave the room. If you feel you need to say something, say only "I need to get a drink of water."
Making sure that both of you know how to communicate in a relationship is also essential. The first step however is to end altogether your willingness to listen or argue with him once he's beginning to get mad The goal is for all your time together to be safe and peaceful. In an atmosphere of calmness, love thrives.
Susan Heitler, Ph.D., a Denver clinical psychologist, helps couples build strong loving marriages. Her book, The Power of Two sets out the skills for sustaining loving relationships, and is the basis for her relationship skills program at PowerOfTwoMarriage.com.