The One Attitude Adjustment That Saved My Relationship
I raised my voice.
Before I knew what I said, I had already said it.
Silence filled the room.
My girlfriend had been cleaning out the closet the day before. Now I was getting ready for work and couldn’t find my belt.
I called over asking her where she had put my belt.
I’m sure my voice was mixed with annoyance and blame.
On the surface, I was asking an innocent question:
“Where is my belt?”
But on a deeper level, I was making an accusation:
“You must have moved my belt. Why do you move my stuff around? Now I’m going to be late.”
We all do this without explicitly meaning to or realizing we’re doing it.
It’s a way to say what we want, without actually saying it.
It gives us plausible deniability.
“I don’t know why you’re so mad. I only asked a question.”
“It’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it!”
I finally found another belt and we rushed out the door.
We walked in silence on our way to the bus stop.
After a few minutes of silent walking, I turned and apologized.
She looked at me for a second, smiled, and said, “It’s OK.”
Just like that, it was over.
▶️ Beware of the ripple effect 🌊
It’s scary how quickly things can blow out of proportion.
You come home — tired and hungry.
You make a thoughtless comment and an argument ensues.
Neither of you wants to back down. The argument slowly escalates.
You go to bed angry, without talking, and when you wake up there’s tension and an awkward silence.
I wasn’t wrong, you think, I shouldn’t have to apologize.
The morning passes in silence.
You go to work and don’t talk all day. None of the usual text messages, nothing.
This is war.
By the time night comes, what started as an insignificant argument has turned into a full-blown fight.
Every little argument has the potential to bloom into a full-scale nuclear fight.
String enough of these small-argument-turned-big-fight and you start wondering whether something is wrong with your relationship.
My girlfriend and I went through this for a while. Each little fight escalated and then led to another little fight and to another and to another.
An endless chain of inconsequential arguments.
Slowly, we made an attitude adjustment that has helped to both prevent small fights from escalating and chain reaction of further fights from starting:
Be quick to apologize. Be quick to forgive.
▶ Be quick to apologize 🙇
We have to change how we think about apologizing.
An apology doesn’t have to be an admission of guilt.
You don’t even have to be “wrong” to apologize.
Apologizing can just be a way to say:
I care more about you than that stupid argument. I’m sorry for not letting it go.
There are no winners and losers.
In most arguments, there is no clear right and wrong.
This is might all seem pretty obvious, but if we recognize all this, how come we don’t apologize nearly as much as we should?
Our pride gets in the way.
Pride is so seductive when we’re angry, but so ugly once the anger has passed.
Recognize your pride for what it is: a defense mechanism.
Tell it thank you, but no thank you.
And then apologize.
As quickly as you can.
▶️ Be quick to forgive 🙏
Forgiving is just as important as apologizing.
Just like it can stop you from apologizing, ego can stop you from forgiving.
You, as the forgiver, have the “upper hand”.
The apologizer is looking at you with puppy eyes and their tail between their legs. This is your chance to exact some measure of revenge.
Your ego demands that you take this chance to teach the apologizer a lesson.
Pride flares up once again.
Recognize your pride, acknowledge it, and tell it, “Not today.”
Forgiving encourages more apologies.
Forgiving well, without smugness or nose-in-the-air finger wagging, makes future apologies quicker to come.
Forgive and create a positive chain reaction.
▶️ Tiny changes make all the difference ☀️
I’m not encouraging sticking your head in the sand and ignoring all arguments.
Some issues need to be talked about and the earlier the better.
But most of our arguments are so pointless.
We’re tired from work.
We didn’t get enough sleep last night.
Your back has been hurting again.
A wave of negative emotions comes over us, we make a thoughtless comment, and an argument starts.
These arguments will go nowhere because they have no substance.
They’re just products of our current mental state.
Recognize and cut off these arguments at the root.
Apologize and forgive as quickly as you can.
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