Use a little emotional detachment to prevent fights with your honey from destroying you.
We’ve all had them – those epic battles with our spouse that leave us shattered and questioning why we’re still with them.
As much as you dreamed of your marriage being different (and maybe even better) than those marriages you observed growing up, the reality now is that your marriage is pretty much the same as those other ones. The rosy glow of new love has worn off and you’ve discovered that your road to “happily ever after” has a few pot holes in it.
Yeah, pot holes are a euphemism for those epic battles that seem to be part and parcel of your marriage.
Fights between a married couple are so horrible at times for four big reasons.
- Spouses know each other better than anyone else. Remember when you first fell in love and would spend hours talking? Well, that’s how you first got to know each other so well. Then as you spent more and more time together you learned more and more about each other.
This deep familiarity between the two of you makes every argument more hurtful because of the underlying assumption of trust to care for each other above everything else.
- Spouses trust each other with just about everything. This trust which permeates your entire relationship gets thrown into question each and every time you have a fierce argument. You begin to wonder not only if you can really trust them, but if you can continue to trust yourself for picking them to be your spouse in the first place.
- Spouses live together. Unless you’ve got a long-distance marriage you’re with each other a lot. There’s no running off back to your place to cool down after a fight because you live together. You share a home and probably a bedroom.
This closeness works well when things are going well, but when things go poorly this togetherness can make it extremely difficult to recover from a battle.
- And spouses tend to trigger each other’s sensitivities. You have wounds from the past – just like everybody else does. Sometimes events in the present can trigger hurt from the past.
Once your spouse triggers your past hurt, it’s present right now demanding that you deal with it. (If you have a tendency to feel abandoned, alienated, dependent, emasculated, empty, enmeshed, helpless, inferior, insignificant, patronized, powerless, rejected, subordinate, used, weak or worthless when you and your honey argue, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.)
The intimacy and trust you’ve developed over the years combined with the fact that you’re human can make it really hard to separate yourself from your spouse. When things are going good that closeness is great! But when things aren’t going so well, your battles can leave you feeling devastated.
The best thing you can do to prevent the typical aftermath of pain from your arguments is to practice a little emotional detachment.
“A little” is key here. You don’t want to detach from your spouse, you just want to add some space between you and your emotions when a battle is underway.
One of the easiest ways to add a little space is to remember that whatever your honey is saying is more about them than it is about you. And that’s true even if they’re saying (or yelling) horrible things about you.
Whenever your spouse states something it’s coming from their point of view which includes their perceptions, their assumptions, their understanding, their beliefs, and their emotions. It’s all about them. You might believe they’re completely wrong, but remember that’s from your point of view (which, by the way, does include all of your perceptions, assumptions, understanding, beliefs and emotions).
So instead of becoming embroiled in the battle, you can become curious about what they’re saying. Once you’ve acknowledged their statement and emotion, you can choose to ask clarifying questions in an effort to understand why your spouse is saying what they’re saying. By doing so, you’ll automatically be practicing a bit of emotional detachment.
Another simple way to separate yourself from the battle so you don’t leave it feeling destroyed is to remember that your spouse is human too – despite the transformation that usually occurs when you argue with them.
Their anger could easily be covering up one of their sensitivities (abandonment, alienation, dependence, powerlessness, emasculation, emptiness, helplessness, insignificance, worthlessness, etc.) that you’ve accidentally triggered.
By remembering that they’re a sensitive person too (as hard as that might be to believe at times), you can become emotionally detached from the hurt you feel when they lash out. That doesn’t mean you have to accept the lashing, it just means you don’t have to take it to heart.
Arguments with your spouse hurt so much is because you’re physically and emotionally close to each other – you’ve got a connection. And like everything else in life your connection is both positive and negative. The positives of your connection are obvious. The negatives include the devastation you feel in the aftermath of an argument.
By selectively choosing to practice a little emotional detachment the next time you find yourself in the beginnings of an epic battle, you’ll be able to avoid some of those potholes on your road to “happily ever after.”
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are struggling with their marriage and aren’t sure they can turn things around. You can join my anonymous newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you're ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
Looking for more support and ideas for making your marriage better? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.