It's funny how we often reserve our nastiest jibes, blame, sarcasm and even insults for those we love most. Think about the way you sometimes speak to your partner in anger and imagine using that tone with a colleague. Most of us wouldn't (though there are certainly exceptions — and chances are, those aren't the colleagues we respect). So why do our manners and common sense about constructive, appropriate language often go out the window when we're home?
Home is a place where we let our guard down, which is usually a good thing — we shouldn't have to work hard at impressing our partner day in and day out. But that doesn't mean forgetting they have feelings that can be hurt by snide comments and ugly language — which will probably result in one of the following scenarios: Your partner learns to avoid engaging with you and walks on pins and needles when you're around, or he or she reciprocates by hurling insults and accusations of their own. It's a terrible way to build trust and respect. Meanwhile, if you have kids, they suffer the emotional consequences of hearing their parents hurt each other while learning poor communication skills by example.
It's a normal part of being in a relationship to get angry and frustrated, and it's healthy to express those feelings. But you can control your words and tone.
Take your emotional inventory before you enter the room. If you are so angry that you don't trust what you'll say, wait until you're less angry. Otherwise, at least take a deep breath and remind yourself that your partner — no matter how angry you are with him or her — is a human being who deserves to be treated respectfully. If your partner is equally angry and responds to you with vitriol, simply explain that the conversation seems to be spiraling out of control, and you're not going to discuss the situation until you're both calm.
When you find yourself looking for the perfect (i.e. meanest) comeback, try turning it on its head and interjecting some humor. Remember Seinfeld? Once when Elaine got into a heated argument with her boyfriend, she called him a "grease monkey" as a pejorative for his job as an auto mechanic. Her boyfriend spat back, "You're a grease monkey," an illogical comeback that one couple I know found hilarious. So whenever they get into an ugly spat, that's their go-to line — "You're a grease monkey!"— and it always seems to lessen the tension a bit.
When things do get out of hand and you say something you later regret, always apologize. Be specific about what you said and how you said it. Don't assume your partner knows that you only said it out of anger — the ugly words might hang in the air for a while, but so will the apology. It goes a long way. When arguing, however, prevention is still the best medicine. You might not be able to prevent the argument itself, but you can prevent unnecessary rancor by making an effort to mind your P's and Q's with the people you care about most.
If you and your partner find yourself arguing and hurting each other, and can't seem to stop the cycle, please give us at a call at 949-220-3211 or schedule an appointment via our online calendar. We at the Relationship Center of Orange County are here to help you.
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