Recently our pastor gave us an article talking about why marriages fail. It focused on a study by the university of Denver which developed a program called PREP which stands for the “Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program”. The information in the study has been used in a book titled Fighting for Your Marriage, by Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley and Susan L. Blumberg, and has been featured on numerous TV newsmagazines like 20/20. The program talks about the four negative behavior patterns which can destroy relationships.
I found it interesting that my husband and I experienced all of these patterns regularly before choosing a taken in hand relationship. We are now experiencing fewer of these negative patterns and the main negative pattern we have overcome since being a taken in hand couple is escalation.
This occurs when partners respond back and forth negatively to each other, continually upping the ante, so the conversation gets more and more hostile. That was us to the T before becoming a taken in hand couple. We could have a huge blowout fight over absolutely nothing. I was continually saddened by the constant negativity in our relationship and was only biding time until the divorce that was bound to happen became a reality.
One of us would start in with some negative comment about something stupid, and then the other would chime in negatively.
Most of the escalation was caused by me not being able to control my negative comments. My husband was usually not the instigator of these kinds of incidents but he would join in once I got the ball rolling. The comments would escalate until we were yelling at each other or at least saying really hurtful things. We would be angry for days. In the days or weeks following the incident we would communicate very little because we were angry or afraid of repeating the past incident again. We would walk on eggshells because every interaction could blow up into a huge fight.
The amazing thing was that these fights arose from very small issues. It might be something as simple as deciding who would do the dishes and who would help the children with some project. I never understood why we fought so much over the smallest things. We would try to get along but it seemed that no matter how hard we tried, minute things would just escalate into huge arguments.
Escalation is almost a non-issue today. Now if I start in with my negative comments my attitude is quickly remedied. Being physically taken in hand releases my negative emotions leaving me with a better attitude. Occasionally, I still feel irritated after being taken in hand but I keep my mouth shut until I can communicate in a more useful manner. I don’t have to be obnoxious to communicate my wants and needs or my frustrations.
On those days when my husband is in a grouchy mood, which is rare, I am quiet and let him have his say. I try hard not to give an obnoxious response.
While I am not always as respectful as I feel I should be, at least I don’t jump onto the escalation bandwagon. I know if I do I will quickly be reminded to keep my attitude respectful, and any negative emotion either of us may feel is quickly dissipated. My negative emotions are gone within moments. The discipline makes me feel about 100% more cheery after it’s all done. My husband has a gentler manner afterwards as well. Usually whatever he was grumpy about in the beginning will have dissipated due to the fact that he was able to communicate his frustrations to me and I was willing to listen with a respectful attitude. I am then willing to listen with kindness and am truly concerned about whatever the issues are that were bothering him.
I can’t even remember the last time we got into an argument that escalated to the level of hostility. I think there have been a few times when my husband was unassertive and I got out of line verbally, but he didn’t allow his attitude to escalate. A person can’t have an argument alone. Most of the time arguments don’t escalate, because I have learned to control my mouth.
Another way our Taken In Hand relationship has stopped arguments escalating is that when I start to go off the deep end my husband now verbally reminds me to keep my words under control. He firmly but kindly reminds me that that kind of attitude is unacceptable. Nine times out of ten that does the trick and I find a way to communicate without being hostile or cruel.
Lest you think I am a mouse and all communication has now ceased at our house I must tell you that we communicate much more than before. Since we began acting like the rational adults we are capable of being we are not as afraid to try to communicate together. We are both much more likely to try to solve problems through talking respectfully to one another. Before, we knew we couldn’t control ourselves and the conversation would end up escalating so it got to the point where conversation was almost never happening and when it did it was almost always bad.
I think people should be able to work out these kinds of issues without needing to be taken in hand to keep their arguments from escalating, but obviously this is not so in many marriages or the divorce rate wouldn’t be so high. In my case, being raised in a home with almost no boundaries or social parameters left me ill-prepared for marriage. I have always had a hard time carefully choosing my words, especially in my marriage, and it has certainly affected our relationship negatively. My husband tends to get pretty annoyed with mouthy women so we have always been an explosive combination. Right from the start it was problematic and the older he got the less tolerance he seemed to have for my tendency to negatively verbalize my feelings. And the more comfortable I got with him the more likely I was to verbalize negative thoughts and emotions.
I’m not suggesting that everyone should choose to have a taken in hand relationship to keep their arguments from escalating. What I am saying is that undoubtedly those who opt to live in a Taken In Hand relationship will find that the escalation factor in their relationship is dramatically reduced as a result. It certainly worked for us.