The Marriage Fumble, Timeout & Reset

OK, so you’re marriage is great and things are going well. Until…

After a stressful day, with lots on your mind, you feel like crashing and unwinding. Incidentally, it is the same time that your spouse feels like having an engaging conversation with you. While you’re not trying to be hurtful, you’re frankly in no condition to have a deep conversation. All you’d like is to get out of it without being hurtful or rude. Nevertheless, your spouse senses your distance and feels rejected, even though it was never your intention.

But with matters of the heart, since when do intentions count?!

Now, instead of enjoying the rest of a quiet evening, you are left trying to apologize and make amends for having hurt your spouse’s feelings and been insensitive at a time when something weighty was on his or her mind. And to make matters worse, this important conversation is set aside in light of trying to fix the newly created tensions. This dynamic only further drives a wedge between a couple and a quick solution is needed – before things rapidly deteriorate!

Many of my clients report this type of scenario as a common occurrence. It is what I like to refer to ask the “marriage-fumble” (which can really happen in any relationship). It is tantamount to an incredible, action-packed football game, which had one bad play. Consequently, when the game ends, all the fans and sportscasters focus exclusively on that one fumble, ignoring how amazing the rest of the game was.

Yes, a marriage-fumble is a bad play. However, it should not define the entire game. A quick recovery and turnaround is necessary. It is under these circumstances, that a couple must summon all of their emotional intelligence and maturity to recognize that this was just an off day, and not a reflection on who they are as a couple, nor does not mean that one is married to a rude or insensitive person.

Therefore, the solution is to stop the play, blow the whistle and call a timeout. For in the alternative, a couple will angrily hash out and replay the fumble ad nauseam. The game of he-said/she-said will be both hurtful and unproductive. The first lesson in recovering from a marriage-fumble is to not make things worse by pointing fingers and fueling debate. Therefore, after a fumble the first things to do is stop and not make matters worse.

Ordinarily, I work with my clients to help them learn from their fights how to better understand one another and to develop improved communication skills. While there is room down the road to learn from these blunders, keep in mind that we all have off-days from time to time, and a fumble does not represent the typical argument. It need not be studied, explored and rehashed. Suffice it to simply call the play an error and humbly ask your spouse for a reset, where you can both erase the play and start over.

Usually, when a couple has a shared desire for a fresh start, the relationship can be refocused and elevated to an even higher level of intimacy than before the fumble – resulting in a win-win!

To contact Ari Sytner for counseling, interventions or feedback, please click here.

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