I love working with couples. Helping someone realize that their problems are not insurmountable and are easily fixed encourages some couples to change and reach marital bliss. Others, have a more difficult time letting go of past hurts and can sabotage their relationships even while they desire for it to succeed. The most difficult obstacle to overcome is fear of repeating a past mistake. When you have evidence that people lie, cheat, and steal from you, it's harder to have faith that the next person won't do the same thing. When multiple people have hurt you, the challenge seems insurmountable.
"Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.”
In order to overcome the pains of your past, you must see evidence of the truth of today. When someone has been hurt, the memory can feel like a paper cut, and when it gets bumped it hurts with the same intensity of the original wound. The problem is, the person who bumped you did not make the cut, but they can end up suffering the consequence as if they did. The pain is the same even while the cause is not. The wounded person must recognize this fact or they will over-react to the bump and accuse the other of creating all the paper cuts they have received from people in their past.
This perspective creates the first step to conflict.
The second step, which adds fuel to the argument, is when the other person becomes defensive. Maybe they have a paper cut of their own and they are reacting to your bumping as if it was intentional. They know they did not cut you but merely bumped you, which they see as a minor offense.
The first counters with evidence of the pain they are suffering because of the bump and attacks the second's caring or listening abilities and the character assault begins.
The other now goes on offensive as they are unfairly attacked and feel justified to retaliate.
BOOM! World War Three breaks out.
If your arguments follow this pattern it's a simple fix, but it's not easy. It requires practice and patience. You must take a pause when you have been bumped and consider the intention of the other. Here is a counter-response you can use to gain clarity and understanding before the fight begins.
The first person gets bumped by the second and says, "Did you mean to bump me?"
The second asks for clarity, "I bumped you? When?"
The first explains their experience, "Just now. You gave me dirty look. Did I do something to upset you?"
The second explains, "No. I just have a lot on my mind."
The first now knows the bump was accidental and can move on.
Moving on is the hardest part of this scenario because most people don't accept the other's explanation and will press their feelings onto the other making the other responsible for those feelings.
If you find the bumps are repeated offenses, you may have a legitimate complaint. This requires more insight to determine if there is a character flaw being revealed or a deeper rooted problem that you won't be able to resolve. The saddest thing about working with couples is that not everyone wants to take responsibility for their contribution to the argument. They will argue that their bumps are much smaller than the others or disregard the pain they are causing altogether. This is when you know you are dealing with an inner-child who does not want to grow up, and that child might be you.
“Children; they have bad manners, contempt for authority;
they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.
They no longer rise when elders enter the room,
they contradict their parents and tyrannize their teachers.
Children are now tyrants.”