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Respectful Quarrel

Respectful Quarrel

Do you speak to, and behave  toward, your partner in a loving way?

If I asked a client  “Do you speak to, and behave toward, your manager (boss, supervisor, etc.) in a respectful way?” most people say, “Yes, absolutely.”

If I ask them “Do you actually respect that person?” people often say “No”. Why do most people treat their boss with respect, even though they don’t respect the person? Because they want the job.

If, in a moment of anger, disappointment, frustration, sadness, etc., a person still chooses to speak to their partner with love (or at least politeness!), it would at least partially be because they want the relationship.

If a person speaks to their significant others with love, respect, civility, or politeness, what kinds of behaviors are excluded? At least the following;

Name calling


Character assassination

Drunken rage


Hostile comparisons with other people

Public humiliation

Sometimes clients will tell me “that’s just the way I am” or “that’s just what I do when I’m frustrated, it doesn’t mean anything”. The message seems to be that they don’t really have control over what they say, or that they can say whatever they want, and it’s up to the listener to handle it. I must respectfully regard those remarks with a polite “Really?” “When you are frustrated do you go to the kitchen, get a knife, and stab your partner? No? Of course not!. Do you get a hammer and break the windshield of their car? Of course not.” “Why not?” Because for almost everyone, physical aggression and/or destruction of property  is known to be a crime and those behaviors are lines they will not cross.

Because this is not about how a person is.  This is about what a person chooses to do. That’s why they don’t choose to do this at work! That’s why they don’t choose to do something that could result in their arrest!

How does this kind of talk affect your important relationship? Not well (no surprise, there). It is a natural reaction, when you are attacked, to defend or attack back. And eventually the relationship becomes such an unsafe place to be that both people begin to withdraw to such a degree that it seems there is nothing left.

A healthy relationship should be safe, a place where partners can come to recharge. If you can’t feel safe and nourished by your most important relationships, the time will come when one or both partners will consider leaving.

Instead, consider the benefits of quality relationship counseling.  Learn how to calm yourself enough to make wise choices about how you speak to each other, and see what happens!

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