Διαβάστε στα ελληνικά εδώ
Isn't it quite bittersweet that when we weight in our relationships, we remember arguments that were so regrettable and bitter, that we would happily delete them from our memory?
It's only natural to hope that in the future when we reach a higher level of maturity, we might be able to overcome them once and for all. However, given what human nature is actually like, it would be unwise to set such a goal. We shouldn't eliminate arguments altogether, but to try to find better ways around them. How so? I have an opinion about that if you are interested in listening.
Arguments are an utterly regular part of human relationships, due to the fundamental axiom that all of us have different and yet equal perspectives on the facades of reality, which might occasionally clash. However, the majority of nasty verbal fights tend to onset with the establishment of a "victim-perpetrator" dynamic between partners. Through that dynamic, the "victim" holds the obnoxious behavior against the "perpetrator" and unfairly confronts them as if they were the full embodiment of the argument's Apple of Discord, through what appears to be an outburst of radical selfishness, intransigence or sheer nastiness.
If we accept, nonetheless, that each one of us is entirely responsible for their emotions and expectations, the latter ones could be easily hurt when the circumstances fail to fulfill them. The full frontal clash towards our partner that unsuccessful stood to our high expectations, and the dictation of why they failed us, isn't something that can be swallowed lightly. At this point, it is incredibly tempting for the confronted "perpetrator" partner to react with equal force, and in the heat of the moment pay back with the same coin, punish for the received suffering. The emotional agony is comparable to the most penetrating physical pain, and yet not accidentally. Social rejection and physical pain share similar neural circuits and activate the same brain areas, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and anterior insula. Although the neurophysiology of pain is alike among us, there are variations in how we opt to approach the suffering; perhaps with a lot of shouting, by slamming doors, or by calling funny-names that we wish we could take back the second we through them in the arena of the argument.
When the argument becomes unbearable, and a total soul-ripping experience, both sides start pulling the rope a little harder, more than it can hold, in hopes to wrap-up things and be done with that emotional rollercoaster. But at this point, we might want to take a step back and evaluate "what is that we so badly want?" After all, we are not in the heart of this typhoon, to attribute justice per se abstractly. What we’re genuinely seeking in an intimate relationship is for the other person to love us in a kinder and more respectful way. The underlying reason for the anger is that both sides feel misunderstood and poorly loved for different reasons.
Funnily enough, almost the last thing we ever do when we’ve been very hurt is to say that we’ve been very hurt. It feels just too humiliating to reveal our emotional wound to the person who inflicted it, to the very individual who without any remorse – unless proven otherwise- has abused our vulnerability. That defensive behavior is both hugely understandable and doesn’t improve things in the least because we’re not in a relationship to be emotionally safe in our shell. We are in it to find an intellectual and emotional connection, with someone that shares our values and perspectives on life matters. Or at least this is where I stand. An act of retribution, while it may give us a momentary impression of impregnability, never increases our chances of obtaining the love and understanding we yearn for.
Thus, we might consider a different and slightly paradoxical approach: before reaching the absolute low point and start hitting back, we could make "a dignified avowal of hurt and fear," like a friend very nicely calls it. We could attempt to register what is ailing us, through a twofold admission. Initially, we could state that we are very hurt by someone that we put on our emotional trust and add, and this takes proper courage, that the emotional nakedness of our pain unveils an imperceptible fear for what seems to be a scary crack on the facade of our partnership.
A statement like the aforementioned that isn't plain insulting in the usual way can't throw oil in the fire and initiate the vicious cycle of attacks and counterparts. On the other hand it gives the partner time for a pause and food for thought. Right there and then we aren’t lashing out, but nor we are begging. We are neither being very strong, nor very weak. We are neither punching nor crawling. We are just standing still, admitting our genuine sadness, fear, and nakedness in a tone of self-possessed dignity.
Hopefully, in the future, when we reach a higher level of maturity, we might be a lot better at admitting that although we are capable and strong in most areas of our lives right there, in the arena of the relationship, we are hurt and scared. Yet, we are brave and mature enough to dare to tell our partner in the most undecorated and heartfelt words. We might save ourselves a lot of time and tears this way.
What are your thoughts on such an approach?
Credits | Text & Photography: Despoina Kortesidou