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Spousal Conflict

Anyone who has lashed out at a spouse at the end of a long day knows that grown-ups throw tantrums, too!!! We call them “disagreements” or “blow-outs”! Some may call them episodes of justified outrage, because he or she loaded the dishwasher wrong….again! In other words – the rage does not match the situation at hand!

Why is this happening:

Sheer frustration, of course. And remember HALT….hungry, agitated, lonely, tired? You probably know all about the tired part; with our crazy busy lives we try to cram too much into one day! But, some of us have a more difficult time putting on the brakes than others. The rage towards a spouse is simply a symptom of the problem at hand.

So, in the heat of the moment: If your spouse is throwing a tantrum, try saying something like “honey, I know you are upset. I am listening to you. But can we take a break and figure this out in a little while?” At that point, be willing to take that time out and wait. It may take 20 minutes – to a day for surging stress hormones to subside completely. Forcing a serious conversation immediately sets you up for failure.

If you are a tantrum thrower, this advice may enrage you, but yes, you should take a deep breath and count to 10. Deep breathing activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which is essential for relaxation. “I always say to people, ‘If you really want to yell at him, you can do it later,'” Chances are you won’t, but the bottom line is” Midtantrum is not your most persuasive, lovable self. You will make your point more effectively when you are not hurling dishes!

How to handle the aftermath:

To your tantrum throwing spouse, instead of hurling accusations – or digging up graves… acknowledge what’s bothering him and let him know what you need to stick with him through the storm. For example: ” I know you are mad when I am running late and don’t call, but when you start slinging dinner plates, it’s hard for me to hear you out.” If you are the one who threw the tantrum, apologize! How easy!! Remember that it doesn’t mean you are erasing your feelings and “giving in.” You can tell a loved one that you are sorry for losing control and then follow-up with “I am still upset about this or that.”

It bears repeating!! Make a plan. If say, your spouse always loses it at the end of the day… the house is a mess, everyone is tired, then set aside time (preferably after a good night’s sleep) to discuss both your needs, frustrations and solutions for how to make things smoother.

Struggling is normal – but it’s a wave – you need to learn to ride the wave with the right tools at hand. It takes constant work! Remember relationships take years to really work well!

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