We all know that sometimes a fight doesn't end with the words of forgiveness. Sometimes past hurts linger in the back of our mind, and without us really thinking about it, we fling those hurts back into the fight that happens the next day, week, or year. What was forgiven was not forgotten, it seems... or even really forgiven.
This comes from our instinct of getting back at others, of giving people a taste of their own medicine. When we continue on a cycle of hurt without feeling as if our partner has really tried to make amends, we begin to have low expectations from our partner. We become bitter and harsh. It can become dangerous when one person can stop being hurtful and the other person will start. An abyss opens where one hurts before they’re hurt again, and one tries to understand the confusing behavior of the other. The hurt partner might decide that the silent treatment is the only treatment his/hers hurtful partner “deserves” (we see this happen a lot to women who are married to passive aggressive men). Of course, that just means the vicious cycle continues, doesn’t it?
“You hurt me, so I will hurt you back.” Is that how you want your relationship to be? Do you picture a happy ending there? Do you think your partner is going to roll over and submit?
We can already see that what should have happened was one partner saying to the other, “I feel like you’re always hurting me without making it better.” It takes courage and patience for this, though. You may have to say it over and over, and you may realize that your partner (if they’re passive aggressive) doesn’t want to listen.
What are your options, then? Where does the courage come in? Try to remember that assuming you have the right to inflict emotional punishment on the other sinks you to the level of an abuser. You must have the courage to be a bigger person, and to seek emotional strength instead of weakness. If you’re thinking to yourself: “I don’t think it’s worth it, I’m too angry,” use this trick from a well known family mediator.
He asks them to stop the fighting:
“OK, now tell me how it was when you fell in love with each other? how were you feeling concerning him or her? how was the relationship at that initial moment?”
It never fails to put a stop to the quarreling, and both sides can see the “before” and “after” of their marriage in a new light, because they didn’t start as enemies! Do you see a before and after? What do you want your future to look like?
See if you can change the game. Stop looking at the recent hurt and remember the good aspects of the relationship. If those are still strong and valid in your memory, work on them. Tell your partner: “I loved when you did... (here include the good memory). It is difficult for me to reconcile that person with what I see now... how can we get back to that good relationship?”
This proposition works because you are giving this person a recognition of positive aspects of him/her. It is not that, in the heat of the dispute, you see only negative aspects: you also remember the parts where you were happy and grateful! If you do this in a sincere way, it is enough to stop a serious fight and remind both of you that there was a positive connection between the two... If the other person refuses, and continues with the negative frame: “I’m unhappy with you, and you do bad things, and etc...” then of course the invitation to frame your relationship as something also positive has failed, and you should prepare for this outcome. It’s a pity that he/she can’t accept your generous frame, but is a choice that this person has the right to do.
If your partner has refused to reconcile (or if you refuse to reconcile with your partner!), take this opportunity what it is you really want from a relationship. Ask yourself how much longer you want to go on in battle-mode with your partner, and decide by yourself if you are better off continuing stuck in this lonely dynamics, or better of cutting your losses and moving on.