How we stopped the escalation of verbal hostilities

How we stopped the escalation of verbal hostilities

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.

Forty-something wife

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Comments

Verbal Hostilities

40 somethingwife, that's how it was with my ex husband —verbal hostilities. I always wanted him in charge but he never wanted that. I am quite easy to control but he never did it so we'd end up with the arguing exactly as you describe.

Then when I went out for a few months not so long ago with a man who was clearly in charge we rarely had a cross word between us as it was always understood who had the last word and I was content to cede to his authority or happy enough overall to put up with something I didn't like. Seeing the difference between both those realationships really brought it home to me what kind of man I need.

Trouble is it takes two to tango and by no means all mean are interested in Taken In Hand relationships at all. You can lead a horse to water but can't make him drink and I certainly tried in my marriage to get things to the place I knew even before we married that I needed them to be.

Wanting Taken In Hand...

Actually what it sounds like to me is that a woman who wants Taken In Hand in her life is likely to be much more feisty and argumentative, possibly quite hostile to the man she supposedly loves, until he either turns into the dominant man she wants or she ends up finding someone else who is.

So Taken In Hand is a double edged sword. With the right man, it seems to improve marriages, but in a marriage that could be just fine with an egalitarian type husband who is neutral on the dominance scale, it destroys it.

"Pat"

The right man

I think it's certainly true that some women who are 'feisty and argumentative' are looking for a Taken In Hand relationship, and it's hard luck on a man who is perfectly nice but can't cope with that.

However, possibly some women may think they want a Taken In Hand relationship, but find they don't like it when they get it. I've just been re-reading 'Appointment with Death' by Agatha Christie, which contains this interesting passage. A young woman called the boss King who has just qualified as a doctor, is thinking about her recent broken engagement:

She had just passed through a difficult emotional crisis. A month ago she had broken off her engagement to a young doctor some four years her senior. They had been very much attracted to each other, but had been too much alike in temperament. Disagreements and quarrels had been common. the boss was of too imperious a temperament herself to brook a calm assertion of autocracy. Like many high-spirited women, the boss believed herself to admire strength. She had always told herself that she wanted to be mastered. When she met a man capable of mastering her, she found that she did not like it at all! To break off her engagement had cost her a good deal, but she was clear-sighted enough to realize that mere mutual attraction was not sufficient.

Feisty....

Interesting quote, Louise. I have never been feisty and was never easy for my ex-husband to argue with, although there were certainly arguments. I always wanted to submit from as long ago as I can remember.

Since I have been single I have had to think about what I want and would I really like the reality of a Taken In Hand relationship. I have exclusively been out with men that way inclined since then and it has been so so much better in so many ways. I feel as if I can be myself and the control I need and they actively want fits together just as much as had I always been gay and never had a gay partner until now.

However even now I wonder if living with someone like that would be hard in reality and you cannot know that until you try it. I also fear I have simply been lucky in going out with reasonable clever interesting men who are as interested in what I might want as what they themselves want. Selfish dominance is what is to be avoided.

Men who can use their dominance to bring out the best, even the independence, in their woman are the best to seek out, who aren't threatened by my work/life because they know they're in charge and I want it that way.

Feisty, I Think I Gave It Up

When I was married, I was most always willing to voice my opinion even when things excalated. And sometimes it got pretty tense; and I don't believe either of us really knew what to do next or how to cool our emotions. I internalized I could feel awful inside for days.

Now I am in a relationship that seems to be going a Taken In Hand direction. We don't do spanking (not yet, though we both seen to hint at it) but he has a real way with words and his voice. We don't argue but we do express viewpoints and I find that when we are at opposite ends, he will bring it to a close and instead of grabbing the last word, I stop.

I like it this way so far. It helps me to understand where the boiling point limit is and I don't spend time aferward feeling upset. So in this regard alone, I think Taken In Hand is really beneficial.

Pat

First of all I wish "Pat" would go by some other name because I always wonder if this is the Pat that usually posts or another Pat. How about "NTaken In Hand Pat" which stand for not taken in hand Pat or something. Just a thought. I love your comments Pat. They are always thought provoking.

Pat states:
"Actually what it sounds like to me is that a woman who wants Taken In Hand in her life is likely to be much more feisty and argumentative, possibly quite hostile to the man she supposedly loves, until he either turns into the dominant man she wants or she ends up finding someone else who is.

So Taken In Hand is a double edged sword. With the right man, it seems to improve marriages, but in a marriage that could be just fine with an egalitarian type husband who is neutral on the dominance scale, it destroys it."

I think this is very true. I have always loved my husband but I didn't respect him until he was willing to stand up to me. I really needed a dominant man and I knew this by the age of about 24 but my religious beliefs made me unwilling to consider divorce. Then I had my children and of course divorce wasn't an option. My husband is a wonderful husband and father and a woman who wanted an egalitarian relationship would adore him. I on the other hand need a dominant man. Thankfully he had enough of it in him that with some effort he was able to bring forth his more dominant self eventually. For me it is a must that he is able to take on a dominant role in our relationship. He is quite happy with the change in our relationship and I believe he feels it is worthwhile to engage his more dominant side in order to have a better marriage. He actually seems to enjoy bossing me around, especially in the bedroom!

I flaw myself for having married a man who didn't have the qualities I needed in a man. We married way too young and as I said my religious beliefs didn't allow me to consider divorce even though I was aware pretty early into the relationship that we were ill suited to one another. Again, my husband is a wonderful sweet man he just wasn't a naturally dominant type and was completely unaware of what it was I wanted in a man. I didn't really know how to verbalize it well. I feel very guilty for the way our relationship went for many years. We were both very frustrated. We wanted to have a better relationship but we just didn’t know how to “fix” the problems we have. Our relationship is at times still rocky but it is so much better than before. I feel much more hopeful now than I ever did and so does he.

Fortysomething wife

Reading this made me feel so

Reading this made me feel so very sad.I realised I could have written it.I divorced my ex husband after 26 years.Im so glad you got it sorted. I just wish we could have. Maybe then I wouldnt still be dealing with the acromonious aftermath that adultery and divorce cause.I am now in a new relationship with a dominant partner but I really don't know if I believe in it working. Maybe I'm too negative, but once bitten and all that...

a warning is often all it takes

The comments:

"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."

really ring true to me. When I married, my attitude and "I can do it by my own damn self, thank you very much" were the cause of much annoyance to my husband. He is one of the most patient people I know, but he can't stand what he sees as disrespect—and my attitide was anything but respectful once I got mad.

I am convinced that we would not still be married if we hadn't agreed on a traditional relationship that involved his control and the threat and follow through of discipline.

My husband also gives me fair warning if I start to escalate my tone or language to an unacceptable level, and 99% of the time, that is all he needs to do. We are both happier because of this arrangement!

M-