I KNOW my wife loves me. I KNOW she’s kind and compassionate and wonderful. But I still jump to these conclusions that she’s out to get me, I get defensive, I get upset and frustrated, and I do stupid stuff that hurts her (and vice versa).
In the last 12 months, we’ve gotten really good at repairing the little hurts and healing the wounds we inflict on each other. We’re both pretty fast to forgive, and willing to admit when we've acted like a jerk.
But during our relationship inventory, we've decided to level up in year 2.
Instead of just getting good at forgiving and healing each other, we want to master not even getting sucked into conflict to begin with!
So, how the heck do we do that?
Well, first we need to get really honest with ourselves. We need to identify our weaknesses and vulnerabilities that let these conflicts creep into our marriage.
Then we need to create a plan to change our attitudes and behaviors so we can get the outcome and results we want.
Lastly, we need to follow the freaking plan.
I already identified above that our weaknesses are not assuming positive intent, getting defensive and being reactive.
Now we needed to create a plan.
"Why don't we just not be a-holes to each other in the first place? Wouldn't that solve things?" my wife asked.
“It’s not that easy,” I replied. “We're not perfect. Sometimes I’m going to push your buttons without even realizing it, and you will react without even thinking (or vice versa). The moment that happens, the "Don't be a jerk" plan goes right out the window. What happens then?”
So we thought a little harder.
"Maybe it would be easier for the person who isn't feeling the initial hurt (aka the one who did the inadvertent hurting) to keep their cool and change the direction of the conversation," I suggested.
“What if when one person lashes out, the other person responds with the phrase, ‘I know you didn't mean that. I'm going to give you a minute.’?” Ang suggested.
Woah. What a gift!
Imagine you lash out at your partner, and instead of punching back their response is to give you the benefit of the doubt and generously offer you time to heal so you can get back to your normal, loveable self.
When one partner gives the other partner exactly what they need, it stops conflict dead in its tracks.