Imaginary Chalk Board
When you've decided you're ready to let something go, imagine
writing down your old hurts or angers on a chalk board and
choosing to erase them. Erase each hurt--- letter by letter
until they are all gone. Starting with a clean slate can
be very healthy for your relationship.
Hot Air Balloon
Another approach I suggest is to visualize placing the hurts
into the basket of a hot air balloon and let it drift into
space. Watch it become a speck in the sky until it is out
The Melting Popsicle
If you're a good visualizer, imagine your hurts as an ice-cream
cone or popsicle melting in the sunlight. As the hurts melt
away, breath in the warmth of the sun and the clean fresh
air. With each exhale say, "I let this go." If your anger
persists, you may need to use the Anger Inventory LoveTool
to recognize some self defeating communication patterns,
begin to take more responsibility for your own behavior,
and recognize some positive alternatives to arguing.
- You and your partner take two sheets of paper apiece
and tape them together (length-wise). Divide your sheets
into nine columns. Title the first column, "things that
make me angry." Work separately on each of your lists.
Be specific. Don't make a global statement like, "when
the house is a mess." Instead say, "I'm angry when you
forget to wipe your feet when you walk in the door."
- Then, in a second column, list the "expectation" that
has been violated. To use the above example you might
say, "I expect that I don't have to tell you to wipe your
feet and that since you've been asked you'll comply."
- In a third column write the "hurt and other feelings"
that emerge out of having unmet expectations. For example,
"When I ask you to do something repeatedly and you don't
I feel hurt, frustrated, and unimportant."
- In the fourth column, write how you usually deal with
your hurt or disappointment. Again, be specific about
what you might say or do.
- In the fifth column "enable empathy." This is difficult.
Put yourself in your partner's position and imagine how
he or she feels when he hears your comments or experiences
- In the fifth column ask yourself, "What am I trying
to accomplish with my behavior?" Am I trying to vent my
feelings, hurt or punish my partner, or gain understanding?
- Next ask yourself, "What am I actually accomplishing
with this behavior?"
- In this column, consider some "NEW options." List alternative
behaviors and ways of dealing with your frustrations.
After each of you has completed this exercise privately,
take turns sharing what you have written. As always, use
the Stop, Look and Listen LoveTool.
Some Hints to Deal with
- Blaming never solved anything. Would you rather be right
- Try to hear your partner's point of view. Don't nod,
pretend you're listening, and wait for a lull in the conversation
to make your convincing argument.
- Don't use words like" You always" or "you never." In
a multiple choice exam, every good student knows that
a question with "always" in it is usually false.
- Remember that attentive listening to your partner doesn't
mean you agree with their point of view. It only means
that you understand what they're saying given their particular
assumptions, feelings, and perspective.
A list of don'ts:
- Don't roll your eyes or laugh to undermine or distract
your partner when they are speaking.
- Don't interrupt.
- Don't demean, resort to name calling, or try to get
leverage by dredging up some sensitive information from
your partner's past.
- Above all, don't threaten verbally or physically.
- Don't say something you'll regret later. Words matter
and once uttered are impossible to retract.
- Stop the negative spiral. Just because your partner
is acting inappropriately doesn't justify your hurtful
- Remember what you love about this person and why you
married him or her. This is difficult to do when you're
angry, but no one told you this would be easy.
- It's OK to use some humor, but using humor doesn't mean
laughing at your partner.
- Don't sweat the small stuff. Arguing about who last
emptied the dishwasher or why he controls the television
remote control isn't worth going to war over.
- Enable empathy--the most important ingredient of all.
It's human nature to be self-involved and think of "me,
me, me." It takes incredible self-control to consider
your partner's feelings in the heat of an argument, but
it is the most helpful thing you can do.
(Excerpted from Dr. Scantling's Extraordinary Sex Now:
A Couple's Guide to Intimacy, Doubleday, 1998)
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