How To Stop Bringing the Past During a Conflict - How To Win a Man's Heart

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March 26, 2015

How To Stop Bringing the Past During a Conflict

# 1. Understand that at the end of the day, you want to fight the issue and not your partner

Dr. Randi Gunther

Males tend to live more in the present. When the fight is on, it’s on, and when it’s over, it’s over. Women tend to hold back during the initial conflict and take a more strategic, long-range position, thinking about what they need from their guy later that day that might require a more careful interaction in the present. Think “Party tonight, better not fight too hard about this now.”

Once the initial skirmish is over and there is time to really clash without interruption, women have more confidence in their right to win and almost uncanny recollection of events past (even if they’re not completely true). When they are fortified and ready to go, they often catch their guy off-guard and in a one-down position. If they also have a battery of back-up people, situations, and relationship behaviors that she can add to the mix, they have a much better chance of getting their goal in the post-mortem fight. That is especially true if their partner feels guilty for what he’s said or done in the initial battle. That is, by the way, the major reason why most men are understandably apprehensive of the rehash.

Yes, women can get feisty as hell the first time around and are as perfectly capable of starting a fight, but usually their challenge/attack is a build-up that’s been sitting awhile and, more often, a re-entry provocation that begins with something like “I need to talk to you about this morning,” or “I didn’t like the way our fight ended last night and I need to say some things I didn’t get to.” This accumulation of time, data, and strengthened position has a lot more power and potential artillery behind it and women often excuse their less than genteel position by their righteousness in settling a score their men have most likely forgotten about.

If we leave the legitimate reasons for conflicts aside, and just concentrate on the nature of an argument, needing-to-win is one of the most destructive enemies of intimacy. The moment either partner stops living in the heart of the other, all potential successful interaction ends. The moment a repeated argument gains momentum, all innovation ends. The moment a conflict becomes one partner winning at the expense of the other, all hope for meaningful resolution ends.

These “take-no-prisoners” exchanges are like an emotional epileptic seizure: once they start, it is almost impossible to stop them. Couples who want their conflicts to create foundations for better understanding in the future see them coming way before they lose their potential for healing. Whether a man is more likely to focus on winning in the moment, or a woman strategizes for an after-kill, their relationship will ultimately fold under the weight of that negativity. Ultimately, there is no excuse for either partner to treat their most beloved person as a target for their animosity or frustration.

Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com

# 2. Resolve issues as they happen

Sherry-Marshall

You may think that the past is in the past, but a lot of the time, many of us don’t leave it there, especially in relationships. Past unresolved issues, resentments, anger and hurt can flare up in a current conflict. However, there is no benefit in going back into history.

There are many reasons when you have an argument with your partner that you bring in previous conflicts and hurt. Firstly when you get angry, you lose control and are not aware of what you are saying. Don’t use former clashes as ammunition to try and win the argument you are having now. It never works, by the way!

Of course, if you were really hurt and traumatised and haven’t healed yet because it’s not been talked about or resolved, you may recycle a topic. However, this is not the way to recover from past pain. Another reason is that your partner is still giving you the same signals or messages and it unconsciously triggers you. You refer to the past, because the same process is happening again now, but with a different content.

So how to stop bringing up the past?

Discuss issues as they happen. Don’t wait too long to talk, otherwise your anger and frustration will build up. Have good conflict resolution skills such as listening and understanding what he is telling you, as well as being able to talk about your own feelings.

Remember that the goal is to solve the current problem. Focus on discussing and finding solutions together. Then let go and move on as quickly as possible.

Ensure you stay with the current dispute and train yourself not to bring up old history. If you do, as soon as you notice, stop. Recycling previous arguments will never bring resolution to the current one. You also throw the conversation off topic.

Be willing to agree to disagree, rather than the conversation escalating. Don’t use what your partner has revealed to you in a vulnerable moment as a weapon against him, otherwise he will eventually stop sharing his deeper thoughts and feelings with you.

Learn to ‘fight fair’ and don’t over generalize such as, ‘you always do this or you never do that.’ Don’t get nasty and attack his personality or your relationship will deteriorate over time.

You will not resolve anything while arguing, so take ‘time out’ and readdress the issue when you are calmer. Don’t necessarily re-visit the topic, but talk about the process and how you communicate.

Don’t bring up ‘old scores’ but calmly let your partner know his repeating behavior is upsetting you, as he may be unaware of it.

You can only change yourself and your attitude, so work out why it’s difficult for you to stay in the present, talk about it with your partner and agree just to discuss one recent problem at a time.

Sherry Marshall, BSc, MAA – www.sydneyprocesscounselling.com.au

# 3. Set aside time each week for a brief, calm, solution-focused (not problem-focused) conversation about your relationship

Shelby Riley

Being a safe partner means being able to communicate in healthy ways. Women often bring up the past because they tend to conceptualize things in terms of themes and patterns. Men tend to think more concretely and compartmentalize things, so they don’t see the common thread that ties experiences together as intensely as women sometimes do. As much as you might think it helps to bring up the past to “educate” your partner about the theme or pattern of his behavior, when emotions are high and people are reactive, he will most likely experience your examples as drama, criticism, and “kitchen-sinking.” The value of staying focused on your present experience and not bringing up the past is that it will help to decrease conflict, increase his experience of you as a safe partner/communicator, and help build safety and trust in the relationship. When these qualities are present in a relationship, people are often more receptive to hearing about a theme or pattern once everyone has calmed down.

I suggest having a time set aside each week for a brief, calm, solution-focused (not problem-focused) conversation about your relationship. Asking questions like “How can I show you love in more effective ways?” “What did you enjoy most about our relationship this week?” “Is there anything you’d like me to pay attention to this week to be a better partner to you?” are great ways to intentionally create a relationship you both feel good about. This would be a great time to bring up the theme or pattern you were tempted to bring up in the fight. If it’s important, you will be calm enough to talk about it in a loving, safe manner. If it wasn’t important, and fueled by anger, then you won’t need to bring it up now that things are calm. Sometimes just knowing you will have an easy opportunity to talk about it later makes it easier to not bring it up while you are angry.

Shelby Riley, www.shelbyrileymft.com

# 4. Resolve your conflict through “transformational conversation”

Kristen Brown

First off, I believe there is a massive difference between “fighting” and what I like to call, “transformational conversation”. In my estimation, the root of “fighting” is to gain control over another’s behaviors and/or words. In this dynamic, one or both parties are seeking to control some aspect of the other person through manipulation, guilting or sometimes bullying. I believe the root of “transformational conversation” is to find healing and facilitate forward movement that both parties are in agreement with through truth, authenticity and respect.

The word, “fighting” oftentimes brings to mind two Rams on a field repeatedly crashing into one another. Each Ram trying desperately to gain control over his territory. I liken this scene to two human egos ramming each other until one eventually backs down through submission or exhaustion and lets the other “win”. With either of these scenarios, there may be a temporary lull in the activity, but nothing truly has been resolved. The backing down is only temporary until once again one side attempts to gain control.

Let us remember that when the ego is in the verbal exchange, no healing can truly be sought. Healing can only be sought when love (respect & truth) enters the room. This is precisely why most “fights” do not ever reach resolution. Most often both parties are usually only in it to win it and not for true resolution.

Transformational conversation doesn’t mean we don’t cry or get emotionally charged at times. However, this does not mean that we have permission to run roughshod over our partner by demeaning them, belittling them or repeatedly throw their weaknesses in their faces. In order to have a productive conversation, we must understand first and foremost that we are dealing with a heart and a soul and how we approach our grievance is paramount to how the situation will play out.

Let it be known, that I 100% agree with and believe in the higher good of transformational conversations (fighting) as long as it is done respectfully. Relationships simply cannot and will not prosper unless or until both parties are willing to lay down their grievances and air out resentments. It may not always be pretty, but it should always be respectful.

Disclaimer: Generally speaking, it is not healthy for a person to repeatedly bring up past situations especially if there has been ownership and a change in behavior that supports the resolution. However, there are some personalities out there who like to “forget” or ignore behaviors of past, never take ownership and continually act like they have done nothing wrong. In these situations, it is perfectly okay to remind them of past history. Personalities like this are usually in denial of their behaviors and most likely will use any tactic they can to keep the focus off themselves.

By staying focused on what matters, keeping hysterics minimal and staying centered in your truth, you are doing everything possible on your side of the equation to reach a healthy compromise, agreement or total resolution.

Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor – www.sweetempowerment.com

# 5. If you are harboring old feelings about something, bring it up before you start to fight

Amanda Patterson

When you bring up the past in a fight, you are adding fuel to the fire. It doesn’t get you any closer to resolve the issue at hand and it certainly isn’t the best avenue to resolve old conflict. In the heat of the moment, you are going to bring up things that are bothering you that you have not fully addressed. This is the type of situation where proactive behavior makes the biggest impact.

If you are harboring old feelings about something, bring it up before you start to fight. Let your partner know that you have something you want to talk about and work it out when feelings are calm and you both agree to talk about it. No one likes to be blind sighted and when you bring up old stuff, it can feel like that. This old stuff is going to keep coming up until you take the time to talk about it.

If you have a habit of bringing up the past during fights, you and your partner should talk about that pattern. Come to an agreement that your partner can remind you that you are bringing up material that is off the table during a fight. You can have a keyword or phrase, as a gentle reminder of the pact the two of you made. This will help reorient and ground you during a fight. It can be the very thing that brings your emotions down. It can provide a trigger to your brain that this is off limits and even though you went there during the fight, you have the opportunity to shift.

If the past situation is something that needs forgiving, then do some work around it. Have you forgiven your partner for whatever it is you are bringing up? Is it something that requires forgiveness, or something else? Are you willing to do your work around the past and if so, what can you do today in order to let go? There is a reason you are holding on to it. This is your work to be done, not your partner’s. If there is something you need from your partner, then it is your responsibility in your half of the relationship to ask for it.

If you are still stuck, put into place your coping skills to deal with it, such as journaling, meditating on the topic, talking to a trusted friend or getting therapy in order to get greater healing.

Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com

# 6. Check if you are anxious or worried about something else

Dr. Annie Ready Coffey

“Ready? Aim. Fire!” Do your inner thoughts resemble anything close to this when you’re a second away from fighting with your partner? If so, which part of your strategy includes carrying on a relationship with a mortally wounded person? Okay, jokes and exaggerations aside. Maybe you don’t exactly get your partner “in your sights” when you begin an argument, but does some part of you secretly think about “winning” or coming out feeling superior when you fight?

Perhaps you hear yourself bringing up the past (and starting what I like to call a “Dumb Fight”) because you are actually anxious or worried about something else. Scan your reasons for being angry. Dig underneath the surface reason regarding why you’re angry (“No, I don’t want you to go out to dinner with Beatrice; She’s the woman who stole you away from Sheila!”) and take a close look at yourself.

Ask yourself if there is a reason you want to create a boundary or some space between you and your partner? Maybe something is going on for you. Your intuition could be telling you that this is not someone with whom you want to go forward. Or, perhaps, you want to create a fight so you can make up and feel closer.

Is there a part of you that wants to break up and you want your partner to call it quits so that you don’t have to? Are you just doing what you learned in your home growing up because your parents slung accusations at each other? You’ve got to know yourself.

Let’s address the problem of you bringing up your partner’s past in terms of how you can avoid damaging the foundation of your relationship. Most of us want to feel good when we open up and share with our partners. To paraphrase a few words from Frozone in Pixar’s movie “The Incredibles,” “Superhero babes (want to tell me about their secret identities) because they think it strengthens the relationship!” Well, talking about our secrets and fears will strengthen the relationship if these things are truly respected.

What you need to be aiming for regarding your communication is Positive Reinforcement. Sharing should have benefits. Sharing should not lead to possible future humiliation. You must set the stage for your partner to feel comfortable enough (not anxious, or thinking “She might ambush me at ANY time!”) to allow him or her to be able to make his or her own connections between a current topic you’re fighting about and an old incident (or tendency). Practice welcoming a reference he or she makes to a past event or situation by gently saying, “Yeah, I was remembering that thing/story you told me…” And then say no more. Become attuned. Be open to hearing more.

Of course, past stories or transgressions might be relevant for you to keep in mind. In case you’re worried that something will happen again or you’re concerned because there has been at least one instance of infidelity in your relationship already, remember that you probably need to get angry at yourself and not just at your partner. We all feel foolish if we coulda, shoulda seen what was coming.

If you’re no longer worried about you or your partner’s ability to be committed to one another, talk about your habit of bringing up the past with your partner. Ask for help from him or her. “Please, call me on my stuff.” Tell your partner that you realize you’re making him or her hold back or turn away. Admit that you hate having this effect on him or her and all you can say when you do is, “Ugh!”

When you have not faced an infidelity, but have fought with your partner for other reasons and it feels like he or she has started to pull away, hit re-set immediately. Aim to be curious versus accusatory. You must strive to stay freshly attuned in the moment. When he or she shares about a past relationship, maybe you’ll hear the unspoken message that your partner did not feel committed to his or her former partner. Perhaps his or her last partner pushed your significant other into a more serious place and your partner was not ready. When he or she shares about a former habit or experience, guard it as sacred. Know that it is a gift to open up to one another. Make it safe to share and keep it safe.

Be mindful. Slow down. Catch yourself thinking about bringing up something negative or accusatory – having a Dumb Fight – and then hold back. Later, if you need to, ask a therapist or a trusted friend for more communication strategies to keep you engaged and on track with your partner.

Dr. Annie Ready Coffey – www.replenishmentandchange.com

# 7. When you stop thinking about winners and losers and change your goal from winning to problem solving, it’s easier to manage yourself

Sally Leboy

It’s very difficult not to bring up the past when fighting with a partner. Essentially the past is ammunition to bolster the righteousness of your position. Fighting is about winning; if you want to win you’ll throw in anything that helps your cause. Maybe you don’t need to win, but you don’t want to be wrong.

When you stop thinking about winners and losers and change your goal from winning to problem solving, it’s easier to manage yourself and think about what is useful (or not) to bring up.

Managing your emotional reactivity during a conflict is the number one goal to conflict resolution. Nobody can argue well or solve a problem when in a heightened state of arousal. That’s when the old fight or flight part of our brain kicks in. Good for survival; bad for relationships.

Here is something else about bringing up the past. Your memory of the past and his memory of the past will probably be different. This is very frustrating, but it’s true. Especially in emotional situations, we don’t remember things the same way. Nobody is lying, but your versions will differ. Obviously, bringing up the past is not going to shed any light on the current conflict. In fact, it will probably make it more difficult to process.

It’s healthy to fight. People who don’t share their grievances end up distant and resentful. But you need to look at your fight as a way to share and receive important information. When you move away from right and wrong, good and bad, winners and losers you can start to get curious about the actual issue. The more you know about a situation, including how your partner thinks and feels, the more likely you will be to come up with a solution or a compromise.

Sally Leboy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

# 8. You may have unresolved issues that need to be acknowledged and addressed first

Denise Davis

Being in a relationship is hard. Everyone says that and if you have been in one you know it to be true. A relationship is two different people with all of their issues, good and bad, trying to create something that makes both people involved happy and content. So it is no wonder why it is very normal to have disagreements from time to time. The key is when you have these disagreements that everyone “fights fair.” However, most couples have never learned to fight fair so it is something that has to be learned and practiced.

One of the problems that some couples have is staying on topic when there are differences. This can be very challenging because when people are mad they tend to say things they don’t mean or issues from the past creep back into the discussion and after a while no one knows what the original problem was or where it began. This can be a huge problem so it is important to figure out why this happens and how it can be stopped?

What I noticed with couples that I had worked with who were dealing with this problem, many had a lot of unresolved issues. For example, I worked with a couple who argued a lot and every time they argued both would bring up issues from the past. When this would happen they both became overwhelmed and the only way they could come back together is if they both agreed to drop the issue. Things would be okay until the next time they had an argument. I had to show them that if they didn’t start dealing with the issues as they occurred this cycle would continue and their relationship would not last.

Admitting there was a problem was the first step. They both had to admit that their way of arguing was not working and something needed to change. The next thing that happened was the couple had to agree that when they had a disagreement they would deal with it at that moment and not let it linger. They realized that ignoring the problem made things seem better in the short term, but in the big scheme of things it actually did more damage. The best way to ensure success was having both parties admit they played a part in the problem and they both held the key to the solution. Just like most things that happen in a relationship, it takes work to keep things headed in the right direction. Bringing up past issues should be a warning sign for all couples that they have unresolved issues and they need to be addressed or this will never go away. My suggestion for all couples having trouble letting go of the past would be to seek counseling so there is an outside person who can keep both people focused on the issue at hand.

Denise Davis, LMHC – www.denisedavislmhc.com

# 9. You need to look for the “real” issue that is causing conflict

Lyndsey Fraser

When we have an argument with our partner it is easy for us to bring up a past incident because a similar emotion is felt. What I want you to do instead is NOT focus on the incident but honor the recurring feeling that is valid.

Often when we have arguments with our partner core values or experiences are evoked. For instance I had a couple in my office that was fighting about covering the peas after a dinner meal. Do you think the fight was really about covering the peas? In reality forgetting to cover the peas is minor issue. But if a core value is evoked the fight can begin. The core value for this couple was being valued. One partner had cooked a nice meal and when the other partner forgot to cover the peas the experience of not being valued was evoked. The experience of not being valued is really the core of the fight. For this couple it is a recurring theme that has occurred with many different past arguments. When you focus on the incident and not the emotion you create circular patterns that results in no resolution and more hurt feelings.

What are the core values that you are fighting about? Here are a few examples below:

• Value
• Respect
• Love
• Appreciation
• Support
• Loyalty
• Consistency

Do any of these seem to fit what you are experiencing? This is where you can focus the argument. When you move the fight to the value your partner will start hearing you more clearly. If you complain about how he or she did not cover the peas again your partner might feel like you are nagging. But if you can focus in on the core value that is being triggered you partner might hear you. No one intentionally wants to hurt their partner. When your partner hears that their behavior of not covering the peas caused you to feel undervalued you may get a different response. This in turn may result in you both being about to truly address the real concern.

Lyndsey Fraser, MA, LMFT – www.relationalconnections.com

# 10. Follow the 4 tips below

Dr.-Maurita-Hodge

There’s a specific wireless network that coined the question, Can You Hear Me Now? For weeks, dare I say months, this question was posed by many, many people from all walks of life. Even today, when someone does not understand us, the first thing we sarcastically shout out – CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

The question was posed, how do I stop from bringing up the past in my relationship? When we feel as if we are not being heard and understood or our needs are not being met, we often revert to bringing up our past hurts, blaming, hurting and torturing our mates. When we are unable to properly address our needs and feelings, we engage in unfair fighting tactics (i.e., bringing up the past), walking away wondering why he or she cannot hear us or understand us – Hey you! Can You Hear Me Now?

So let’s explore what it really means when we bring up our past hurts – in essence what are we saying when we shout CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? Ask yourself the following questions.

1. What Am I Feeling Right Now? When couples are engaging in conflict, there is a chance someone is not being heard, resulting in becoming frustrated and angry. To ensure you are clear about what you need and what you are feeling in the moment, you must first know your needs and identify your feelings (e.g., sadness; lonely; physical pain; fear; security; financial stability, etc.).

2. What Am I Really Saying In This Moment? When you are with your mate or engaged in a discussion (heated or otherwise), are you clear about your needs? (e.g., I am hurt; I am lonely; I need to spend more time with you; I need to be valued, etc.).

3. What Is the Intent of My Behavior? Continuously bringing up the past indicates there are unresolved issues you are still harboring. When we fail to resolve our issues and address our needs it blocks the progression of the relationship.

Now let’s talk about addressing it – Fighting Fair!!!

1. Am I clear about my needs and feelings? When speaking to your mate, discuss how you feel based on your own point of reference. Also, refrain from blaming him or others for how you feel (e.g., I am not happy right now because I am lonely; I feel valued when I am heard, etc.).

2. Can I civilly continue this conversation? If you are becoming upset to the point you are unable to clearly engage, inform your mate you need to discontinue and need to finish at a later time that does not exceed a 24 hour period (10min, 15min, 60min, etc.).

3. Has this conversation become about me or is it still about us? If you are no longer regarding the feelings of your mate, then discontinue the conversation. If this is not possible, then listen and respond at a later time that does not exceed a 24 hour period (10min, 15min, 60min, etc.).

4. Are you available to engage in the same behavior? In your conversations, allow the opportunity to hear and acknowledge your mate’s needs and feelings. Good behaviors should be reciprocal.

When Fair Fighting becomes a habit you will no longer wonder if your mate Can You Hear Me Now.

Dr. Maurita Hodge – www.movingmountainsconsultingllc.com

# 11. Follow the 2 tips below

Cynthia Pickett

Arguing fairly is an essential skill for the health and longevity of any relationship. There are rules to having a healthy argument and one of them is to not bring up the past. When we do it leaves out partners feeling unsafe and in turn they will be less likely to share things with us in the future.

To makes permanent changes we have to understand why we do something, anything, or history will repeat itself. So why do we do it? There can be a couple of reasons.

1. Our own unresolved anger issues from our own past that we are projecting onto our partner or;
2. Unresolved issues in this relationship. Things that have been “swept under the carpet”

In both cases, as much as we don’t want to admit it, the goal is to hurt our partner because we are hurting. We are lashing out. Usually this is subconscious but since human beings we are very purposeful and do not do things unless there is a specific reason, whether we are aware of it or not.

So how do we stop?

1. Figure out which of the two reasons you are doing it? Is it your own past or unresolved issues in the current relationship? If it is your own past, heal it. Focus on releasing all the hurt and anger and as you do the velocity behind current arguments will decrease significantly.

2. If is it because of current unresolved issues in your relationship, talk to your partner. Tell him what is going on for you and work on resolving those issues together.

The last and most important thing to remember is that you are in charge of you! As hard as it is in the heat of the moment, if you can’t say something nice don’t open your mouth. Literally! Take away the disempowering excuses like “I didn’t mean to”. On some level the meaning was there or it wouldn’t have been said. It is very important for us all to censor what comes out of our mouths. As I tell teens, there is no alien out there dictating what is said, it is all our responsibility.

By taking responsibility for all of our emotions and actions, it puts us in a place of strength as we are acknowledging we are in charge of us. Plus it gives us the opportunity to heal any issues that are still unresolved. By behaving respectfully and healing unresolved issues and taking charge of us, we are opening the door to greater respect for others and ourselves.

Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com

# 12. Follow the advice below

Amy Sherman

You know that when you’re in a relationship, conflicts and fights will be inevitable. The key is to make those fights constructive and fair and that means not bringing the past into your present conflicts. You don’t want one person to walk away feeling horrible while the other person feels like a victor.

How do you fight fairly?

Ask yourself, what are you really upset about? Is this issue worth arguing about? Can you let it go and move on?

If you need to say something, what do you want to come of it? Are you looking to be right or is there a genuine and valid reason this issue needs to be addressed.

Be sure you are picking a good time to discuss the problem. No one wants to be caught off guard and attacked while they are in the middle of something else. You may experience resistance, if that’s the case and then get nothing accomplished.

State just the facts without putting your spin on it. Stick to the issue at hand and avoid bringing up other problems that happen to be on your mind. Allow the other person to share his point of view. Listen and try to see the other person’s perspective, even if you don’t agree with it.

Practice restating what you are hearing. In other words, you can say, “You are saying that….” In this way, you are both sure you are hearing and understanding what is being said. It’s a good way to clarify the issues.

Compromise on different solutions and try to get dialogue going that comes to some agreement. Negotiation is essential in intimate relationships.

Be sure you each have time to cool off. That means you may need to take a walk to clear your head and get more focused. If discussion is postponed, always have a new time and place to resume the dialogue.
Develop your sense of humor. Humor reduces the intensity of a conflict if both parties are willing to take life less seriously.

Implement the new changes that you have both agreed upon. See how they are working and if there needs to be further discussion. Fair fighting only works if both parties understand that disagreements can end constructively and that there is a way to resolve issues in a more pleasant win-win fashion.

Don’t label. Avoid telling your partner that he/she is neurotic, depressing, or a bore. Rather, try, “I’m tense inside, honey, because you seem moody and depressed. I’d like us to talk about it.”

Grant equal time. Agree that no resolution of an issue can be presumed until each partner has had the chance to express his/her feelings, ideas, and information.

Feedback and clarification. If the fight is emotional and heated, slow it down by starting a “feedback loop.” One technique is to paraphrase back to your spouse what your heard. For example, “Honey, what I hear you saying is that I’m boring you because I have no outside interest. Is that right?” The other then responds by either confirming the accuracy of your statement or clarifying it.

Gain new understanding. Extract enough new information and insight from a fight to permit growth. Don’t waste a good fight by not learning from it.

Implement changes. Follow anger with a fair, firm, clear request for a change or improvement in whatever brought on the fight. Each partner must be clear as to what he/she agrees to modify or improve. Be specific and realistic. For example, it would be agreed that whenever the husband seemed tense, the wife would encourage him to tell her about it, instead of their old pattern of both keeping silent.

Develop humor. Humor goes a long way towards promoting healing.

Keep your fights to yourself. Exceptions would be when more serious problems suggest the need for a counselor. Good counseling is like medicine – it helps do what you might not be able to do alone.
Handling anger in front of children. When anger and conflict initially erupt in front of children, also try to resolve these feelings in front of them. You may need a cooling off period first, but they need to learn about negotiation, discussion, and compromise by watching you do it constructively.

Apologizing for excesses in front of children also teaches them about reconciliation.

Don’t attempt to resolve a conflict when drinking heavily.

“Touch” can begin dialogue. Use touch to help your spouse make the “entry” or “re-entry” into a communicative mood. A foot reaching over in bed, a hand on the shoulder can say eloquently, “Honey, one of us needs to begin the dialogue. I’m willing to start.”

Exclude violence. Agree in advance that real violence is always ruled out.

Is the problem elsewhere? Determine through honest inner searching whether your anger lies primarily (or only secondarily) within the marriage relationship. Spouses might be struggling with poor health, role insecurities at work, fear of death, anxiety about the future, or other unresolved issues. It can be reassuring when a couple realizes that their relationship may not always be the principle problem, even though the real problem still causes anguish.

Respect crying. Crying is a valid response to how we feel. Do not, however, let crying sidetrack from getting to the real issue causing the conflict.

Prayer as strength. Major religions view marriage as sacred and prayer as a vital strength. While human behavior principles must not be neglected in learning how to handle conflict constructively, neither should couples neglect the religious resources of their faith in working out their problems.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

# 13. Follow the 3 tips below

Dr. Angela Clack

There are common couple pitfalls in disagreements and arguments and this is at the top of the list! I often hear couples complain about their partner “bringing up old stuff” when they talk or have a disagreement. This is often the case when old issues and conflicts in the relationship have remained unresolved for far too long. It also seems the “go to” fighting defense stance when the person feels hurt and wants to their partner to feel as bad as they do. So, they resort to the last jab that hurt in the past. It’s often an impulsive, off the cuff remark that seems to be spoken in the heat of an explosive anger outburst. It immediately shuts down any opportunity to talk through and resolve the current crisis because it cuts life a knife-it’s painful.

To avoid “severing ties” in your relationship, it is best to be as calm and composed as possible before addressing heated topics and discussions with your partner. When possible, plan ahead for the very sensitive and difficult talks by making a list of what you want to communicate and to keep you focused on the current issues. Timing is critical for any discussion whether in a relationship with an intimate partner, with your boss in asking a for a raise or promotion, your child’s teacher, your BFF, etc. During the half time of your partner’s football game is likely the worst time and your conversation will not be received well.

I offer the following three tips:

1. Write it down. Take time to reflect and carefully word what you want to say.

2. Leave the past in the past. When you can’t have a conversation with your partner that isn’t open and free to express yourself ask your partner to address it. Since it remains a sore topic maybe you and your partner need to discuss it more deeply to get it resolved. And LEAVE IT THERE!

3. Get your partner’s consent to have the conversation. Try to avoid a conversation starter like, “We need to talk!” This is typically the stereotypical, “Uh oh, what did I do.” Instead, try, “Hey, Hun, when is a good time for us to talk. I’m feeling really angry about what you said and I’d like to talk to you about it.” Now, say it in your own words, but avoid inflammatory statements that could escalate into angry jabs and past dramas.

Dr. Angela Clack, www.clackassociates.com

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