2. Change the Cycle
The partner who is prone to demanding must soften his or her approach, and the withdrawer needs to stay connected and not shut down. Bethany realized that her style might come across as aggressive at times, so she practised asking questions or bringing up concerns in a gentle and constructive way.
Tyler practised listening non-defensively when an issue was brought up. He tried to hear to understand rather than retort, and he requested a break if he wasn’t up for a discussion. He tried not to make assumptions about Bethany’s intentions.
3. Take a Time-Out
Both learned to stop and separate when their conversations began to escalate and their thoughts became accusing and defensive. They did this with the commitment of getting back together later (important to Bethany) with a short and focused conversation (important to Tyler).
With practice, Bethany and Tyler got better at catching themselves when emotions revved up and thoughts became distorted. This kept them out of the useless escalations that had been costing them energy and closeness. “Now when we get frustrated, we at least have a good reason for it!” Tyler joked. They got annoyed less often and handled it better by changing their thinking and giving each other space. The next time Tyler felt sick, he put a Post-it on his door: “No fights about nothing.”
References Jason B. Whiting, Megan Oka, and Stephen T. Fife, "Appraisal Distortions and Intimate Partner Violence: Gender, Power, and Interaction," Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 38, no. s1 (2012): 133-149. Sue Johnson, Hold me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. London: Piatkus, 2008.
Written by: Jason Whiting Originally appeared on:Psychology Today Republished with permission