Often during marital fights there are two layers of emotions. The first one is the layer that consists of primary emotions. For example, a spouse may feel hurt because the partner ignores an invitation to a social function at work.
The second layer is the layer with secondary emotions. In the same example hurt may lead to anger and even though in reality the person is hurt, the hurt manifests itself to the partner as anger.
If you get stuck dealing only with secondary emotions, you will not be able to solve the real issues and this may damage your marriage. This article shares tips that will help you figure out what is really going on during your fights and what emotions you really need to be dealing with.
Track primary emotions with secondary emotions
Your spouse may feel fear that you will leave your marriage and withdraws from your fights because he or she thinks that not continuing to fight is safer than proceeding. The fear may also be covered in anger because your partner feels that he or she contributes a lot, yet you don’t.
The key in these and other scenarios is to dig deeper and listen to keywords. For example, you may ask why your partner is quiet and get a response that he or she doesn’t want to make things worse. This is a good indicator of fear being present. Pay close attention to the reactions of your partner, look for feelings and emotions in their answers and you will find plenty of signs about what is really going on.
Track primary emotions with the way your bodies respond
People in the modern society tend to think about talk about emotions a lot. In reality, emotions manifest themselves in the body first.
If you feel scared and think there’s a danger to your life, you are likely to run or hide. Emotions and actions come first, logic and thinking come second. The same happens when you fight with your partner. Pain is the most obvious emotion that usually manifests itself through tears, quivering lip and looking down. Your spouse may also be trying to take a deep breath or sighing. All these are a sign of what is really going on.
When you notice the real emotion, switch from what you are talking about to what really matters and to what is likely being unsaid at the moment. This will help you break the fighting pattern and deal with things that really matter.
Track primary emotions with relationship and behavior history
Typically, people carry their patterns of behavior with them from their childhood to the adulthood and adult relationships, including marriage. For example, if your spouse grew up in a family where parents didn’t share much with each other and their children, he or she is likely to not rush to share his or her emotions. Your partner will value self-control and self-reliance and may even consider emotional conversations to be a sign of weakness. However, when you know things like these about your spouse, you can anticipate them, predict them, point them out and discuss them. You will also know about the triggers that may lead to you or your partner feeling pain or hurt. Once you are aware of them, you can agree to avoid them in your fights.
Share your experience with your partner
Often spouses have a very different perception of the same fights and interactions. For this reason, you should not assume that your partner’s thoughts about what is happening are the same as yours. It is also very likely that your partner feels about your conflict differently and processes his or her emotions in a very different way from what you do. At the same time you need to remember that your spouse chose to marry you and be with you. While you may see your marriage very differently, you both chose to commit to each other and are in your marriage together.
It may be hard to get your partner to share his or her feelings with you, especially during a fight. However, what you can do is share your feelings and be vulnerable. In a healthy relationship your spouse will likely reciprocate and share his or her feelings and experiences with you. This works especially well when you honestly describe how you feel about the behavior of your spouse. For example, you may feel a lot of pain since your spouse didn’t call you. It is possible that your husband or wife simply got really busy and wasn’t aware of all the pain they were causing. Once they learn about it, they will be likely to honesty share what happened and not repeat the behavior in the future. All of this turns a fight into a constructive and open discussion with no room for anger or resentment.