Imagine Responding To Your Partner’s Anger With Grace & Ease 

Yoda-Believe Let Go Of The Belief That Anger
  Always Begets More Anger  
      Are you frustrated with how quickly you escalate small disturbances in your relationship?  Do small irritations in your relationship quickly become major arguments?  Yoda and I have some solutions.
     Having helped couples manage their high conflict moments for 30 years, I’ve come to agree with Yoda’s advice to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.  Yoda felt Luke’s doubt about doing something that seemed impossible was stopping him from learning.  It only seemed impossible because Luke had never done it before.  Yoda’s advice was, “If you not can believe.  That is why you fail.”  Regarding relationships, this is the belief that whenever your partner becomes agitated or upset with you, that you must defend yourself.  The belief to get rid of is the reflexive habit of responding to your partner’s criticism or disturbance with defensiveness and anger.
     Can you imagine responding to your partner’s anger with curiosity, responsibility, empathy, and a commitment to addressing his or her concerns?  If you find great difficulty imagining this, you are like Luke, not being able to imagine doing something that he had no experience doing before.  Luke has more power than he knows.  You have more power than you know to transform potential high conflict into resolution, understanding, and connection!
     This doesn’t mean you simply cave in to whatever your partner wants.  It means that you take his, or her, concerns seriously in your first words of responding.  This earns you the right to talk about your experience of the same situation.  The habit of quickly defending, explaining, blaming, or avoiding is due to the adrenaline coursing through your body.  The adrenaline tells your mind that it’s becoming dangerous.  The adrenaline reaction of fight or flight helped our species survive physical threats millions of years ago.  This same reaction is now turning small irritations into unnecessarily aggressive conflicts between partners.  This reaction can be overridden!  
     The best way to begin believing that you do not have to get defensive around the slightest hint of your partner’s disturbance is to successfully replace it, just once, with another behavior.  It takes that first successful experience of you not responding to anger with angry defensiveness.  This new response to the irritation of your partner can then become a habit.  The first words of your response can now seriously engage your partner’s frustration.  This will pave the way for your experience to be addressed.  Give yourself evidence that it is possible to respond to anger with grace!
     The skill of engaging your partner’s anger, is a difficult one to master.  Most people habitually respond defensively, which makes your partner believe that you don’t care; which makes them more emotionally agitated.  Then, you respond to the higher agitation with your own higher levels of defensive emotions.  This is a self-reinforcing feedback loop, which often ends with very strong and harsh responses.  This eats away at a couples’ trust, and eventually their loving commitment to each other.
     My RealHope For Couples Conflict Blog contains tools and methods that spell out exactly what you can say that should smooth out most couple’s conflict.  Many couples who try these tools first, before going to marriage counseling, find that there is no need for more expensive therapy.
When you know better, you do better!
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Loving couples argue too! 
    
Marc Sadoff, LCSW – Relationship Coach  310.444.1951
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