Know That Emotion!

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What emotional response do you have to conflict?

The reason I ask is because early in our marriage, when we would have conflict, I would feel sadness and Rick would feel anger. Here’s how it would play out: We would have an argument. Then I would, hating the feeling of temporary separation, cry. Rick, already in a defensive posture, would interpret my tears as my way of manipulating him… which would make him even more angry… which would make me cry more.

Seems kinda funny looking back on it. Might have started with a disagreement over which kind of cereal to buy.

Caution: Open Communication RequiredMy point is this: If you both know that your tend to respond in these ways, you can preempt the pointless escalation of the conflict. Once we realized what we were doing, we could understand each other’s response better. I explained that my tears weren’t intended to make him behave a certain way, they were fairly benign – just a by-product of feeling disconnected. This freed him to deal with his anger without adding extra weight to it.

Incidentally, these aren’t male vs. female responses. My daughter falls in the anger spectrum, and my son in the sadness spectrum. There may be other emotional responses, too. Which are you?

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