“What do we do when our spouses react in a disrespectful or unloving way? What is the appropriate response to our spouse?”
This is a question someone asked on my blog recently, and a question I answer in The Language of Love and Respect as well as at our Love and Respect Conferences. So, here are some basic steps on how to stop the crazy cycle in mid-spin:
1. Remember that your spouse is a goodwilled person. Even if your spouse has done or said something that causes you to doubt this at the moment, proceed with a positive attitude. Anything else will only get the Crazy Cycle spinning faster.
2. Thinking about what you might have done to step on your spouse’s air hose, take your time answering any heated remarks. Think to yourself, Something is bothering him/her. Instead of getting defensive, I need to go slow, giving him/her the benefit of the doubt. I must not jump to a conclusion. I need to be patient. (Hint: Taking deep breaths or biting your tongue may help!)
3. At this point you can take the standard approach that we teach in the Love and Respect conferences. To try to find out what is wrong, never say, “You are unloving” or “You are disrespectful,” accusations that only pinch the other person’s air hose all the more.
Instead, the wife can say, “That felt unloving. Did I just come across as disrespectful?” If he says yes, the wife can say, “I’m sorry for being disrespectful. Will you forgive me? How can I come across more respectfully?” Or the husband can say, “That felt disrespectful. Did I just come across as unloving?” If she says yes, the husband can reply, “I’m sorry for being unloving. How can I come across more lovingly?”
Now I realize this can seem a bit stilted or awkward and many couples are not comfortable with this approach at first. The point is, there is no standard set speech you have to make. It is okay to use different ways to stop the Crazy Cycle from really getting started. Use the terms and phrases that both of you understand and which feel the most comfortable for you. The key is – whatever you say, say it with love and respect!
For more information on this topic, refer to The Language of Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.