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It Takes Two to Tangle

I walk away.  It’s not a fight then.  A fight involves two people.

It’s a myth that if your spouse is upset and you don’t want to fight and you walk away to calm down and your spouse escalates the fight that you are not escalating things yourself.  Many “withdrawers” believe that if they leave the situation that that action will help things to settle down.  If the other partner gets more upset upon this action the withdrawer feels self-righteous thinking, “At least I’m not the one acting like a crazy person here.”

Not so.

If your spouse is getting upset trying to convey something to you, your leaving is an ultimate insult.  It’s rude.  You’ve heard that 80% of communication is non-verbal, right?  So what’s going on here non-verbally?  The message you are sending is: I don’t care what you think.  You are stupid.  You are not worth acknowledging.  I am better than you.  I am smarter than you.  I don’t need you.  I don’t love you.  I don’t want to be with you.  I’m done with you.

But you say, I’m not saying those things at all.

In your mind you may believe that, but your partner is interpreting your actions and if you don’t say anything, your actions will have to be deciphered and since your actions are patently rude, your partner is going to interpret your leaving in a negative light.

A much better approach would be for you to say something like, “I can see this is very important to you.  I’m getting a little upset right now and I think it would be better for us to take a little break and both of us calm down.  I’m happy to talk about this subject, but I think we both need to pull ourselves together.”

Don’t just leave…unless you want your spouse to worry, feel insecure, doubt your integrity and maturity and misconstrue your intentions.

The ancient Proverb is still true:  “A quiet answer turns away wrath.”  A quiet answer is different from a rude departure.


Check out other blogs by Dr. Bing about communication in marriage here.


Dr. Bing Wall is a therapist specializing in marriage and relationships and issues facing single adults with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa.  To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473.  For more information about Dr. Wall click here.

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