Repairing a Disagreement with your Beloved & “Physical” vs. “Social” Distancing | Couple's Net | Chandrama Anderson | Mountain View Online |

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By Chandrama Anderson

Repairing a Disagreement with your Beloved & “Physical” vs. “Social” Distancing

Uploaded: Apr 3, 2020

I’m going to write about two topics today.

How to repair and resolve an issue with your beloved. If you’ve had an argument or disagreement, there are things to do and others not to do, so see below.

I came upon this quote today that is perfect for the topic: "When we have a disagreement, we argue each other's side as well as our own."


1. Consider if you are triggered (getting upset, heart rate increasing, breathing changing, negative thinking, etc.). You’re not green in traffic-light imagery (you’re either yellow, when you’re on the ramp-up, or red, meaning your heart rate is 95 or above.) For more detail on Traffic Lights, please see my article from 3/30/18

2. Signal a timeout (could be a T with your hands, or saying, “I’m not green,” or “I’m yellow.”). If you’re red, tell your beloved you’re red and will be back in 30 minutes to continue the conversation (that’s how long your body needs to physiologically calm down). If you are the one that needed to take the timeout then it’s your responsibility to come back to your beloved. If you are the one waiting for your beloved to come back, do whatever you need to calm down or stay calm. Maybe it’s a walk, music, playing solitaire, etc.

3. Drop the “content” conversation immediately. Content in this context means the topic of discussion (for example, money, sex, kids, in-laws, logistics, etc.).

4. Go to “Process.” This is about feelings, needs, the ability to soothe, being curious, giving the benefit of the doubt, etc.

5. Make eye contact, take his/her hand and ask the upset partner “What do you need from me right now?” or “How can I comfort you?” Or another calm effort to help based on your knowledge of your beloved. Keep in mind that by doing this you are prioritizing your partner and his/her needs in the moment (please note that you are not agreeing that s/he is “right” or that you won’t have a chance to share your perspective on the “content” topic once you’ve made the repair).

a. If you are the one that is upset, do whatever you can to calm yourself down. You know yourself best, so hopefully you know what helps. Maybe it’s several deep breaths. Maybe it’s tapping, pacing or moving a bit. Remind yourself that this is your beloved and while you are having a disagreement or misunderstanding you love one another and will get through it--together. Do everything within your ability to deescalate your emotional state.

6. Meanwhile, do NOT discuss the content at all during this time. You only want to have content conversations when you are both green.

7. Once you are both calm (green) again, you can discuss process only. For example: “When I heard the words ______, I felt hurt/angry, misunderstood, unseen, etc., I need ________ (for you to tell me what you heard, time to say my piece, etc.).

8. The non-upset partner: “I saw that you got triggered. I heard you say __________. Is that correct? Did I get everything?”

9. Once the formerly upset partner acknowledges that s/he was heard, you give empathy. “That must really suck.” Or “That sounds so painful.” (Do not apologize. I know it’s funny to tell you not to say you’re sorry, but saying I’m sorry isn’t enough. Empathy after being heard, seen and understood is what’s needed.)

10. Ask how your beloved is feeling now? Listen closely. Say back what you heard once more.

11. Now the previously upset partner asks his/her beloved how s/he’s feeling and if s/he needs anything right now.

12. Double check that you are both green.

13. Go back, slowly, to your content conversation. If your conversation devolves again, go back to step one.

14. Follow the steps of speaking, saying back what was heard, and giving empathy.

15. Make sure each of you gets a chance to say your piece (think as though you are on the same side of a tennis net; you are a team). Often, when partners get upset their emotional brain takes over and pushes them into fight/flight/freeze mode. Then you become opponents, not teammates.

16. Stay on one topic. Don’t be like a tree, branching from one topic to another without resolving the first one.

People often tell me this takes too long. I say, it does at first, but in the end it both takes less time and you have fewer miscommunications to recover from. And you’ll feel more connected and have learned communication skills along the way.

Remember, you’re learning and practicing. Just keep trying. As John Gottman from the Love Lab in Seattle has determined after decades of research, as long as you have a 5:1 ratio of good interactions to poor ones, you’ll be fine.

Afterwards, reflect on what you could’ve done differently (not what s/he could’ve done differently). You only have control over your behavior. Plus, keeping track of your partner’s behavior and “transgressions” and keeping score is only going to make things worse.

Do Not

1. Don’t go off in a huff for a few hours or days (do recognize that people have different time frames of recovery curves).

2. Don’t try to resolve the content until you’re green on the process part (this can be hard for some people because it feels nearly intolerable to be out of sync with your beloved. Trust me, do it in this order.)

3. Don’t worry about being right (would you rather be right or be kind?)

4. Don’t worry about getting your turn.

5. Don’t hold resentment; it only hurts you.

I hope this process helps you feel empowered to resolve conflicts. Let me know how it goes.

Now on to my second topic.

It’s Physical Distancing, not Social Distancing

I realize this is a strange topic to add to this article, but it’s too important right now not to mention.

We do need to distance physically, and likely will for quite a while.

The human brain is wired to be social. The term being drilled into us right now is Social Distancing. I have been using the term Physical Distancing instead. Everyone I’ve mentioned this slight twist to has immediately felt better.

We all need social contact (via video, phone, across the street). Once it’s warm enough, people could have “block parties” in which each family sets up a table and chairs in front of their house, brings out their own food, and can visit their neighbors at a physical distance.

There are plenty of studies of the problems and downsides to social isolation for the older population (earlier death, depression, etc.) as well as for young people.

What can you do to help someone be less socially isolated each day while maintaining the physical distance that’s necessary right now? Maybe you can have a list of people, and call or video with one each day and rotate through your list.

What ideas do you have?

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