Tuesday, May 28, 2013

We Can Write It Out

Whenever I read something offensive in a newspaper or magazine, I get all worked up, furiously telling off the author in my head, trying to phrase all the arguments to bring my antagonist to his knees.

Once I feverishly composed a three-page letter chock full of arguments, logic, and proofs. But then, when I concluded with my last triumphant semi-colon, I noticed that I was no longer passionate with righteous indignation; having flung my fury upon the ever-patient computer screen, I felt at peace. I then leisurely sliced and diced my composition into a succinct two-paragraph missive, which was more likely to be heard and printed. 

The idea of writing out one's anger and frustration can apparently be applied to human relationships. I hate confrontation. In the heat of the moment all sorts of ill-chosen statements get tossed back and forth, wounding needlessly while rarely addressing the actual point. 

Fighting is a usual inevitability in marriage. But how a couple chooses to fight can make a difference, not only in the success of the union but the health of the individuals. 
For the other subgroup, though, we gave an additional, if modest, writing assignment. Beyond their summaries of the fight, we asked each spouse to write about the conflict from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for both spouses — and, from the perspective of this imaginary individual, to identify, if possible, any single positive aspect to the argument.  
After a heated, emotional dispute, sitting down and rationally dissecting the spat for just a few minutes reduced the stress levels in the relationship. 
It didn't reduce the amount of quarrels, mind you, but they were now handled better.  

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