Several times in the past few weeks I’ve witnessed couples struggle with avoidable misunderstandings. John and Jane have a brief late night conversation about a hot-button topic, they keep going until they’re exhausted, and go to bed, thinking it’s resolved. Over the course of the week each one proceeds with their own version of the “agreement”, until the “alternate realities” become apparent in an explosive fight. Each is hurt, offended, and feels negated. Familiar scene?
Here’s two tips from a seasoned spouse and couples therapist to avoid the mayhem:
1. STOP when you’re tired — it only produces distortion! Tomorrow’s a new day.
2. When you think you’ve reached a resolution, don’t just walk away to water the garden or walk the dog. Instead, Restate Your Takeaway. Reiterate, in your own words, your understanding of what the conclusion was and why. If your partner nods, it’s good, you got it. If your partner tries to throw a plant at you, it’s not good, you need to ask for clarity, then try again. Now your partner needs to do the same, and when you both feel heard and understood, it’s good, now go walk the dog.
Good night and good luck,
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How To Be A Better Couple