We just had a terrible fight. I feel so awful. I can’t believe what s/he said to me. I am shocked at how I behaved. I am upset, confused, in a swirl of chaotic emotions; my head is screaming at me, my guts are in a knot. I can’t breathe. What do I do now??
Fighting can trigger off a cascade of reactions. Have you heard of the “Amygdala Hijack”? This is when the Amygdala part of the primitive brain signals danger and sets off the Fight-Flight-Freeze-Faint survival reaction. So yelling, angry words, and throwing stuff reflect the Fight reaction, while shutting down, going away, or not being able to speak coherently is the Flight or Freeze or Faint instinct. We can get hijacked when our protective buttons are triggered.
This is dangerous for our love relationship (or any relationship). What do we do when we get so lost in emotional reactions? How do we find our way back to sanity when we are angry, derailed, lost, confused, ashamed, and anxious?
“Clean up on Aisle 5” is what Jim and I say.
Here are some tips to reset after fighting:
Take time away for each other. Be sure to tell the other person you need a cooling off period to reset and will reconnect in a while.
Be aware of what set you off. What is that hot button all about? Usually it is a tender wound from the past that has nothing to do with your partner. They just brushed up against it and you went ballistic.
Ask yourself: what am I feeling? Go through the many layers like an archaeologist to get to the root if you can. Ask a coach or counselor for guidance.
Sort out the situation so you can think clearly: When did I get set off? Was it words, tone, gestures that triggered me? Notice how I reacted with my thoughts, words, actions, reactions. Make a chart if that is helpful:
5. Once you feel clearer, ask yourself what you need in order to heal this hot button, and repair the damage to the relationship. Clean up your side of the situation by practicing what you want to say to your partner. Be sure to use “I statements” like I feel… I want… I need… I hope… I am sorry.
6. After you have practiced on paper or in your head/heart/gut or with a friend/coach/counselor, ask your partner to get together to clean up the mess.
7. Arrange a time to talk when you are both calm, focused and clear. Hold strong to what you want from the restorative conversation. Stay on track with a few repetitive sentences to guide you. For example, “I am really sorry I reacted so meanly. I want to clear this up so we can get back on track with each other.”
8. Once you have settled down and are able to talk, set up agreements to help prevent this from happening in the future. Learn from your fighting patterns so you can transform from “Power Over each other” to “Power With each other.”
Example of Agreements:
Take a time out if you are getting escalated beyond rational thought.
Set up fair formats, like one person talks at a time, be respectful, no name calling, no dumping past arsenal on the other person, stay in the present moment, don’t bring in others to take sides, etc.
Handle one conflict or disagreement at a time until there is a solution.
Do it in ways that build trust, respect, and closeness.
Go for completion, satisfaction and, healing.
Hope this is helpful. Let me know what happens!
Set up a call or meeting with me or Jim to discuss how to manage arguments in more constructive ways. Find us on Facebook. Read more about healthy communication in our book ”Secrets of a Soulful Marriage,” available on our website www.soulfulcouples.com and Amazon.
Your Relationship Coach,
Coach for Soulful Couples
P.S. Have you experienced coaching with us, read one of our books, or attended a workshop we facilitated? We’d love to hear your feedback on our Yelp! page.
Ruth Sharon is a relationship coach, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). Her passion is facilitating couples to enhance the vitality of their relationship and make healthy lifestyle choices. Ruth shares her wisdom, compassion and humor with individuals, couples, families, and groups. Ruth and her husband, who have been married since 1970, co-authored Secrets of a Soulful Marriage: Creating and Sustaining a Loving, Sacred Relationship, SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2014. They are delighted to offer coaching for couples and singles, in person and virtually, as well as transformative couples’ retreats, seminars and online courses.