The Do-Over


Did your partner trigger you? Here's a simple way to route around that fight.

In our intimate relationships, it's easy to get emotionally triggered, and this often descends into unhappiness and arguments. It doesn't have to, though. Here's a quick and effective way to avoid getting into quarrels with your partner: the "do-over."

Here's how it works: let's say your partner says or does something that triggers you. For instance, you say, "I'll do the dishes today," and he (or she) responds with "Good!" Not the answer you were hoping for, right? So what are your options? The two most familiar ones are fight or flight. You can go on the offensive with something like, "There you go again! Can't you ever say 'thank you'?" Which is fight. Or, you can say nothing and privately nurse the feeling that your partner is an ungrateful lout. Flight.

There's a third way, too. Recognize that you've been triggered (a fancy way of saying pissed off, upset or annoyed) and ask for a "do over." You ask for a repeat of the triggering transaction, but in a way that produces a satisfactory outcome. In the above example, a do-over would look something like this:

He: "I'll do the dishes today."

She: "Good."

He (resisting a flight or flight reaction): "Can we please have a do-over?"

She: "Sure."

He: "I'll do the dishes today."

She: "Great! Thanks, love!"

He: "My pleasure."

A couple of comments about this. First, it takes two to do over. The partners have to be in agreement that this is a legitimate and desirable strategy, and that it is not up for discussion whether a request for a do-over is okay. A do-over is always okay! Triggering happens, and when you've been triggered, it's always acceptable to ask to replay the story so it has a happier ending.

Second, do-overs have a double benefit. In the short term, they keep unnecessary quarrels from happening. Over the long term, they help partners learn about their triggering behavior, and to do so in a context that is outcome-oriented and unlikely to produce a cascading bad reaction. In other words, it's a context that's easy to learn from.

Arguments that could have been avoided are a long-term relationship killer. That's why do-overs are so useful. At the end of the day, it's a whole lot better to do a conversation over than an entire relationship. 


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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.