One inevitable result of being in a relationship is that from time to time you will find yourself unable to come to an agreement with your beloved. Sometimes these impasses can give way to intense drama. You are both angry and frustrated and stuck in an emotional hole and can’t get out. What can you do?
Stop digging a deeper hole.
This is a “well, duh!” statement to be sure, and it’s easier said than done. But it could not be more true or wise. You simply must stop before the conflict escalates into contemptuous words or behavior and ultimately to an emotional withdrawal and shutdown.
Before you reach that point of no return, someone, preferably both, must physically detach and cool down. You know that you are losing control of yourself and putting the relationship at risk for a more significant conflict, and so someone needs to be the adult and make a mature move. That someone might as well be you.
I have James 1:19 tattooed on my forehead: Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
If you find that you are talking over each other trying to get your point across, that is a pretty good indication that your ears are closed, and probably your mind as well. At this juncture nothing positive will come from continuing. This is when we must declare “I’m too upset right now. We need to come back to this later.” And then I withdraw for a while — but not forever. We must re-open the dialog after we have collected ourselves, even if only to agree to disagree amicably.
When I am away cooling down, I must work to change my inner conversation from hostile or negative to something more productive. I must remind myself that the person I am in conflict with is someone that I care about and do not want to damage. Even if I strongly disagree with their position, can I empathize with it as it applies to their life? Can I imagine some sort of compromise that would help? What part of the issue is due to my stubbornness or pride? And yes, you should pray for wisdom.
When you re-engage can you offer a repair attempt? A repair attempt could be something like; “I think I may have overreacted – sorry.” Usually this is met by a mumbled confession of some sort by the other person. If they are not ready to go that far, do not take offense and start a new conflict – just proceed, or if the other person is still too upset, wait until they are more ready.
It may be hard to imagine that we could actually get closer through conflict – but if it is handled well – and resolved – that is a great indicator of emotional maturity.
1 Corinthians 1:14a – “Let love be your highest goal!”