By Neil Warner
When disputes are frequent and people don’t bother even listening to the other side, the gap widens and relationships get sour. Hatred and contempt fill the gap with negative emotions difficult to dilute. You can be tempted to fight fire with fire and answer perceived aggressions with more aggression.
We need to remember that each dispute is a request for understanding.
Each confrontation a hidden search for recognition from the other side. When the other side is yelling at you, don’t follow your first impulse to escape or shout back. Listen and own every word that comes out of her mouth. Validate what she says; repeat what she says back to her, and ask if you got the whole version or if there is something that escaped your understanding.
Then go into apology mode, by saying things like, “I’ve been such a selfish person. Please, forgive me; I don’t want to be that person anymore, because I don’t want to hurt you anymore. ” And mean it.
If the other person is repeating the same rant over and over again, it means that you haven’t responded to her complaint in a way that makes her feel you have heard her.
You’re probably responding in a defensive way, explaining again to her whatever she already knows that can improve your situation. This is not what she needs. She doesn’t care at all about your excuses, real or imaginary. Can’t you see the pain below the surface?
She needs you to hear exactly what she’s saying to you, and to grieve, as she is grieving, the insensitive, selfish, out of control human being you have been with her for as long as you have. And she is grieving for the lost opportunities for love, for understanding and mutual support that are all in front of you two now.
If you want to do real relationship repair, begin for taking care of her needs. Accept her anger, as a fact of your life; hear her words of pain, validate her feelings as true and legitimate, and never forget that this marital strife is originated in the years and years of insensitivity towards her.
But, if you want to be really married to her, as a grown up and not as a child, you need to understand that this is what a woman wants in a relationship with a significant other. She needs and deserves your honesty. This means that you have to take a good look at yourself and discover, accept and heal those parts of you that are not matching her reality; those aspects of your life that don’t reflect adult commitment yet.