Save Your Marriage From Escalating Arguments Don’t let an argument about who is more "right" undermine your goal for a happy marriage. Use these tips to escape the escalation. BY JEFF FORTE
It only takes one person to change the tone of an argument.
“ So I escalate with more of the same… We are in a real heated argument. About what? I have no idea.”
Many years ago I had a conversation with my wife that could have ended our marriage; as I have seen many couples engaged in the exact same cycle of relationship destruction.
My wife said something to me and I responded back. However, she accused me of having a "tone." Who, me?
So now I am defending my "no tone."
She now says something back with a "tone" in her voice. So I escalate with more of the same. She reacts raising her voice, and now I respond raising my voice even more. She raises her voice and says something not pleasant to me.
We are in a real heated argument. About what? I have no idea.
This conversation is approaching the threshold of relationship destruction, and fortunately I realize it.
What typically happens at this level is that someone says something they wish they didn’t say, and the other person says something that can never be forgotten nor forgiven. The words and emotional escalation are devastating to trust and respect in the relationship. As you might imagine, escalation can also lead to physical violence.
When escalation occurs regularly, the connection can be severed so completely that it cannot be repaired without significant outside help. When trust and respect have been thrown away, intimacy follows them out of the building and the relationship begins to die.
How to Escape the Escalation
In my situation above, I had the presence of mind to realize that if this escalation continued we were in trouble… the relationship we. And that if we continued down this path further, I began to question the survivability of the marriage. Could it really end as quickly as I imagined it might?
What was the limit to what someone could say and still have the other person feel loved? I didn’t want to find out.
That was a defining moment. I decided I didn’t have to be "right." Escalations are often about who is more right, or whose needs are more important. I did something radically different.
I thought about why I was with her, why I loved her, why I wanted to be with her, and what I truly wanted our relationship to be about. I immediately began to think about my vision of our marriage and it changed me instantly—and maybe it saved us.
I quickly softened my "tone," and said "I love you so much, I don’t want to argue with you." Did she escalate further? Of course not. She immediately softened her tone to match mine. The argument was over. It could have easily gone the other way had I wanted to continue to prove that I was more "right" than she was.
I have seen couples fight about who brought more baggage into the marriage, who left the refrigerator door open and other petty things. If you are fighting about who is more "right," the argument will escalate and no one will ever win. Even if you think you won, you will feel bad because the other person is miserable.
Your marriage is guaranteed to suffer with escalating disagreements.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, soften up, and lighten up. Think about the bigger picture:
Why are you with this person? What do you want your life together to be like?
Doing this will get you out of your head and give you access to the wisdom of your heart—and you will know what to do next. As you immediately shift your tone, you will have gotten out of that head of yours that wants to prove you’re "right," and accessed a deeper truth within your heart about why you love this other person.
Jeff Forte CSIC, CME author of "The 90-Minute Marriage Miracle" and founder of PEAK Results Coaching is an Executive and Peak Performance Coach specializing in team and relationship dynamics. His clients include Fortune 500 Executives, Business Professionals, Attorneys, Surgeons, Professional Athletes, Teams and Couples. For more information visit peakresultscoaching.com.