Diffuse the argument before it blows up in your face.
Yes, one conversation could have finished us off.
Unfortunately, far too many couples get caught up in that exact same cycle of toxic relationship destruction: escalating communication.
Are modern marriages really that fragile? Can one conversation really ruin your relationship?
Our attention spans are constantly stretched with distractions. Often times we aren't fully present with each other and that can lead to misunderstandings, and disconnect. In one moment, someone can do or say something that completely severs the intimate connection between a couple. Without a shared intimate connection, the rest of the relationship soon unravels.
Here's what happened in the aforementioned conversation with my wife:
My wife said something to me and I responded back. She immediately accused me of having "a tone."
"Who, me? That's not even remotely possible."
So now I'm defending my "no tone."
She now says something back, with "a tone" in her own voice that irritates me.
So I escalate with more of the same. She reacts raising her voice, and now I respond raising my voice an octave higher. As a result, she gets a little louder, but this time she adds something personal and not so pleasant to me
So I raise my voice further and say something not so nice to and about her. Now we're in a real heated argument.
What's the argument about? I have no idea. However, I do know that this conversation is approaching the threshold of relationship destruction. Fortunately, I realize it.
What typically happens at this level of escalation is that, someone says something they wish they hadn't said. And the other person says something that can never be forgotten, taken back, or forgiven.
The words and emotional escalation devastate "trust and respect" in the relationship. As you might imagine, escalation can also lead to physical violence in some angry and overwhelmed couples.
When escalation occurs regularly, the connection between the couple is often severed so completely that it cannot be repaired without significant outside help. When trust and respect get thrown away, all feelings of intimacy vanish and the relationship begins to die. It happens much faster than people realize.
Here's how to escape the escalation:
In my situation above, I was able to realize that if this escalation continued, "we" were in trouble ... the relationship "we." And that if we continued down this path further, I began to question whether the relationship would survive.
Could it really end as quickly as I imagined it might?
When someone says that intentionally awful thing to you, can you let it go?
What is the limit someone can say and still have the other person feel loved? I didn't want to find out. And that was a defining moment.
I decided that I didn't have to prove I was "right." Escalations are often about who is more right, or whose needs are more important.
I decided to do something radically different to disrupt the negative cycle we were in.
I thought about why I was with her, why I love her, why I want her in my life — I immediately began to think about my vision of our relationship and it changed me (and my energy) instantly. My thoughts instantly re-focused on wanting connection with her. And maybe it saved us.
I immediately softened my "tone," and said "I love you so much, I don't want to argue with you."
Did she escalate further? Of course not.
She immediately softened her tone, to match mine. The argument was over. I apologized for my role in the escalation and we reconnected quickly. It could have easily gone the other way, had I wanted to continue to prove that I was more "right" than she was.
I have seen couples fight about who brought more baggage into the marriage, who left the refrigerator door open, and countless other petty things. If you're fighting about who is more right, the argument will escalate, and no one will ever win. Even if you think you’ve won, you lose because the other person is very unhappy.
Your relationship only suffers from escalating disagreements.
If you find yourself in a similar situation; soften up, and lighten up. Think about the bigger picture, because there’s far more at stake than you realize.
Why are you with this person? What do you want your life to look like together? What is it about them that attracted you in the first place?
Doing this will get you out of your head and give you access to the wisdom of your heart. Only then will you know what to do next.
As you immediately shift your tone, you will have gotten out of that stubborn head of yours that wants to prove you're "right," and accessed a deeper truth within your heart and why you love this other person.
It might just save your relationship.
For access to more insights to help you create the happiest marriage possible, read The 90-Minute Marriage Miracle, The only guide you will ever need to making love last, and visit 90minutemarriagemiracle.com. Jeff Forte's personal relationship support is available to individuals and couple all over the world via Skype. To set up a confidential, no obligation conversation email.