You are unique. The way you express yourself is unique. Everyone has his or her individual communication style, especially when it comes to arguing.
Some people yell. Others withdraw. Some scream. Others become introspective.
As a partner in a relationship, it’s understandable that you might have trouble understanding the other person’s communication style. It can be frustrating when you want to talk and he wants to have some space.
Often, these differing communication styles can conjure up feelings that lead to an explosive moment. When you and your partner are angry, you each say things a little differently. What happens after the heat of the moment has passed?
You can let it go but your partner might not be able to. Those harsh words said in fits of anger linger.
What do you do when you can’t take the words back?
This happened to Noah. He has been with his wife for seven years and married to her for two. They’re happy together but they struggle with their differing communication styles. When she’s angry, she demands answers instantly. When he’s upset, he falls silent.
Over time, Noah’s wife gets angrier, cursing and yelling mean things. One common theme in their fighting is her yelling, “I want a divorce!”
After she calms down, she acts like nothing is wrong. She always claims to have said it in the heat of the moment but didn’t mean any of it. Now, Noah is finding it harder to let go of those belittling and hostile statements.
“Her words have a negative impact on me. This is also affecting our sex life and I am finding it harder to want to be physically intimate with her. How can I handle the way my wife fights and tolerate the aggressive and hostile words from her?”
My advice: Explain and communicate to your wife when you are both calm how painful the residual effects are from the words she chooses to use during arguments. She needs to know it’s hurting the relationship. Learning anger management strategies and using the Time Out when things escalate during an argument can prevent a lot of these statements.
Noah’s wife can learn to manage her anger in various ways. She might want to count to ten before saying something she regrets. She might benefit from removing herself from the situation.
When the fight escalates, it is a wise idea for both people to call for a temporary separation and agree to speak again at a designated time. Then, they can resume the conversation after an hour or two when both people are ready to talk in a more relaxed manner.
Noah’s feelings are real. His wife needs to hear how hurtful her words are for him and how much power they have. She can’t take them back.
Even though she is able to let things go, he isn’t. Noah can help her by making her aware of the invisible scars she leaves every time they argue.
It’s not Noah’s wife’s fault. She could have learned this behavior in her childhood and doesn’t know how to express her anger any other way. Counseling is always available to help her relearn more productive communication styles.
Noah and his wife might also want to work on preventing these types of arguments before they begin.
Prevention and processing is in their best interest for building a healthy relationship.
It’s not uncommon for someone to tell their partner in the heat of an argument that they “want a divorce” even when they don’t mean it. Even so, it’s a damaging statement that can have lingering damage to the trust, commitment, and intimacy of a relationship.
Now it’s your turn. Have you ever said (or heard) this statement during an argument? How did it make you feel? I’m curious to hear how you resolved it with your significant other after the argument.
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