When I was eight years old my mom was frying some hamburgers on the stove. She stepped out of the kitchen for a moment and when she returned a grease fire had started. Moving quickly, she put the pan in the sink and hoped to extinguish the fire by turning on the faucet. We both got an important lesson as to what happens when water hits a grease fire. The fire exploded up and spread to the curtains. Eventually, she was able to get the fire out by throwing the curtains on the floor and stomping it out. Normally water would be good, but the way to put out a grease fire is to eliminate the oxygen feeding it.
A marital fight is a lot like a grease fire. There are things we say that make it escalate and explode into something worse, even when there are good intentions. Alternatively, saying the right things produces a calming effect and the fight loses its flame. So if you want to know how to end a fight with your wife, here are 5 of the best things to say.
1. “I’m sorry I’m making you upset.” Or “I’m sorry I hurt you.”The stronger person always apologizes first.
The stronger person always apologizes first. She may be 99% percent wrong, but that still leaves you with 1% to take responsibility for. Taking responsibility for your 1% will disarm her. You may even think she is being crazy. Whether she is being oversensitive or not, it was still something you said or did that hurt her. Tell her you are sorry and didn’t mean to hurt her. At least I assume you didn’t mean to hurt her. If you did mean to, then you know what to apologize for and you are in for a much longer reconciliation process.
2. “I want to understand what you are saying.”
This sends a message that you care more about her than winning the argument. Many fights escalate because no one feels heard or understood. Be the first in the argument to try and understand the other’s point of view. When you do understand it tell her, “I see what you’re saying.” Keep in mind you don’t have to agree with her, just understand where she is coming from.
3. “Tell me how you are feeling.”
Whether her feelings are justified or not, she’s wanting you to make a connection with them. If you are able to know her feelings and empathize, she will be able to let her guard down. Once her defensive posture is down she’ll be more open to what you have to say.
4. “When you say [BLANK] I feel [BLANK].”
If you are like me, talking about feelings, particularly about hurt and insecurity, is not your favorite. However, it is what she ultimately desires. The less she knows about how you are feeling, the more she will feel frustrated and disconnected from you. Most women I know react well to vulnerability. We don’t need to be a weepy mess, in fact, that is probably not what they want. They are looking for a man who understands his feelings and is able to talk about them.
5. “Let’s take a breath.”
Emotion and fatigue have a way of making us lose perspective. Sometimes when an argument is getting heated a time out is what you both need. Stepping back and getting some rest can clear each person’s head making it more likely to find common ground. While I think it’s fine to go to bed with an argument unresolved, do your best not to go to bed angry.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the hardest thing about saying, ‘I’m sorry.’?”