#1: We’re not mad. We’re hurt.
The short list…
“We’re not mad. We’re HURT.”
Holy hell balls, I have no idea why this is so fucking hard to hear and absorb. I can’t tell you how many times I have said this to a partner — and in many cases, the same partner countless times.
People have more than two emotions, and we are more than “okay” or “pissed.” We are so exhausted of having anything besides “contentment” chalked up as “angry,” and having more delicate — and honest! — emotions, like “hurt” or “disappointed” discarded and sloppily renamed as something crude.
Best I can chalk it up to is a degree of defensiveness on the other person’s part — a protective layer that prevents them from hearing actual and real words and instead fills that noise in with whatever they want to believe.
And that’s literally the best case scenario — because worst case is “they don’t care about or respect your opinion on your own emotions.”
“It takes two to argue.”
If one person is not arguing a position, this isn’t an argument. It’s just one person venting and verbally reaming the other person in a really shitty way.
If one person has taken responsibility, apologized, agreed, accepted, understood, or is otherwise no longer lobbing any kind of counter-argument — even by way of “explanation” or “defense” — then this is no longer an “argument;” this is just toxic.
That being said, if one person thinks it’s only the other person “arguing” while they’re simply “explaining their position,” then they are arguing. And they’re being extra shitty about it, because they’re even denying their involvement and responsibility in that.
“We’re not doing this to punish you.”
People don’t do things for other people — they do things for themselves. Even shit that they think is punishment is primarily meant to self-soothe. The silent treatment, for example, is a defense mechanism. Same with stonewalling, shutting down, or leaving. Yelling is venting. Name-calling is venting. Most hurtful shit is primarily shitty self-defense.
The sooner we all realize this, the sooner we can get to constructive approaches to reconciling hurtful behavior in our partners.
They’re not doing it to hurt us — they’re doing it to soothe themselves.
“Want to resolve a fight? Seek first to understand before being understood.”
Most people go into argument just wanting to say their piece — over and over and over, ad nauseam. You want to know what happens when both people do this? Eons-long arguments that go on forever — only to happen all over again shortly thereafter.
Want to stop fighting about that shit? Go into it seeking to hear their side rather than speak your own. Seriously — do it. Don’t just listen until it’s your time to speak. Don’t listen waiting to respond. Don’t listen while massaging your own complaints (“ohh, that’s good! I’m gonna hit them with that next.”) No — fuck your side. Seriously. Just set it down for a fucking minute and listen. And absorb. If your argument is so valid, it’s not going anywhere. And you’ll get to resolution a lot faster if you let it be affected by what they say anyway.
Of course, one of the shittiest feelings in the world is when you’re the only one doing this — when you listen with your whole heart, accept, apologize, and empathize — and then they never get to yours. This is what most people are afraid of.
I was too — until I tried it. For a full year, I tried it — I sat and really listened with my whole heart, sat my shit down and let it drift off while I listened. And then at the end I’d respond, empathize, apologize, and ask “do you feel like your side was heard?” And only when their answer was “yes” would I say, “can I share my side now?” And then I would — gently.
And when your partner agrees that their issue has been satisfied and then “receives” your side only to immediately launch into defensiveness and getting right back into their issues — you know everything you need to know.
We shouldn’t be afraid of not speaking our side. We should be afraid of a partner like this. And the first defense against it is not being one.
There are probably others — really, I can probably think of at least one more to make it an even five — but those are the things I find myself coming back to over and over.