People in love can be so very stupid. And people in various loving relationships are not far behind. We fight with dear ones over trifles sometimes, and on occasion say things we deeply regret. I don’t have a choleric temperament and I always try to talk through things patiently and rationally once I’ve sorted them out in my head, but even I can get heated up sometimes, often when I try to reason with people who, in my view, can be unreasonable about certain issues. But that’s the thing: as psychologists have shown, humans are, in fact, rather irrational (here’s a list of cognitive biases), and, to top it all, in an emotionally-charged discussion our rational part is treacherously undermined by subversive emotions, and we may find ourselves sidetracked onto discussions we didn’t mean to get involved in, and into directions we didn’t mean to take. Or we may insist on a direction until we take things too far.
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How do we backtrack, then, once we’ve gotten too far in an argument, or too sidetracked in the wrong argument? Well, the important thing is to search our souls and say things we truly mean rather than rely on expedient solutions that don’t come from the heart—because if we do say things like “I’m sorry, I’m a fool” but don’t really mean it, the words will sound empty and the apology will fall flat. As it happens, sometimes when I try to argue things too rationally with people that don’t follow my logic (and that can happen not because of faulty reasoning on their part, but because they may take different premises into account, operate with different data, so to speak) I DO feel I’m a fool, partly because focusing on my reasoning I forget that I’m talking to someone who is upset and who’s looking for ways to rationalize their own behavior.
Arguing with a loved one is truly a fraught exercise in futility sometimes, because each person is trying to make sense first to themselves, each person is, at the same time, tricked by their own emotions, and the basic idea of “I’m telling you how I feel so you can understand” makes the other person want to defend herself, because it’s in our nature to believe that we can understand more than we actually do. Have you noticed people who don’t even let you tell a whole story because they know the end of it/the gist of it/the point you were trying to make? That’s part of what I mean by us thinking that we understand more than we do. True, with lots of reading of psychology and fiction and with more life experience, we may be able to see better from other people’s perspective, but again, when it comes to love, emotions may trick us. Here’s an example: you have wonderful memories with your loved one, but she can’t recall some of them because she’s currently unhappy with you for a bunch of reasons, so she’s focused away from those memories in order to resolve her cognitive dissonance.
A loving relationship involves a good deal of compromise and sometimes we’re not happy about what we feel we have to put up with on occasion. So then we take it out on others—and sometimes on people whom we truly adore but who have different ways of dealing with certain situations or communicating their needs, emotions, or desires. This can happen, for instance, if a person is too negative. It can also happen when the person is actually quite constructive in essence but makes negative comments because that’s her communication style.
I could go on and on, but hopefully I’ve given you a few things to consider. It took me quite a few years to see the danger in some arguments, and I still find myself amazed how sometimes arguments flare up out of little things. Well, they’re not little, because their roots go much deeper.
But I was talking about backtracking. I feel it’s important not to leave the argument on a high note, but recognize right away that both you and your partner/family member/friend will need time to process what has been said and, as the case may be, calm down. It’s also good to search in your heart after an argument so as to do that processing bit—or else you fought for nothing. If you ended up hurting each other, at least learn from the other person’s feedback and from your own mistakes in that argument and in your beliefs, attitudes, and actions in general. And then return to that loved one with a peace offering. The sooner the better—if you know what you want to say, that is. I, for one, lately feel that sometimes I want to say “I’m a fool” for getting into an argument in the first place, so I say something along those lines. But I do it because I genuinely feel that some arguments should not even get started, and some hurtful things should not be said. Often you can divert the problem from that channel by talking to a good friend, or your therapist, if you have one; by reading a book, watching a good movie, or doing some sports; by going into the city for a nice meal with someone; and so on. Find what works for you. Listen to music, write, paint . . . There are so many positive and productive things we can do instead of getting worked up over things that we may not be able to solve with an argument anyway.
I sometimes find that writing a piece of fiction helps. It may not be related to my argument, but something in the other person’s comments gets me on a track where I can try to explain to a reader, if not to my loved one, how I feel, and why I feel that I’m not compatible with that way of seeing things. Even a simple exchange like “A: (What you’re doing), watching TV? B: What’s it look like I’m doing?” can tell lots about different conversation styles. A may like to state the obvious in order to express goodwill and warm up conversationally, while B is the person of less words who may not appreciate small talk. Also, B may interpret A’s question as rebuke (as in A may be saying that B should be doing something else around the house), hence the more aggressive-sounding answer. And the interpretation can go on. As in, B may not, in fact, sound annoyed when she says “What’s it look like I’m doing?” She may even be blasé about it, as in tired of having to state the obvious right back. And the thing is, A and B may have an amazing and treasured relationship despite what this short exchange may appear to indicate at first sight. There are many situations where you can communicate easily with a loved one but then find that she doesn’t actually commit to doing the things she talks about, so it’s mostly talk and very little action. And then you can be in a great relationship with someone that may not get your conversation style but who understands things about you that you often don’t have to spell out, and does things for you that are truly wonderful.
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Okay, so you’ve had your argument, but neither you nor the other person feel that all the negative energy and feelings are dispelled. What is there to do? Well, sometimes a flowers bouquet does help. So does chocolate. But often a loved one wants to hear that you are sorry. On some occasions and with some people, a simple “Forgive me, I’m so very sorry” is enough. Some people don’t want to hear more, because if you get into explaining things your way again, they may feel they haven’t actually been heard. So give yourself enough time and patience, if that is the case, to have calm, pleasant, constructive conversations with that person when she is in a good mood rather than try to end the argument with your explanations. (I’m using “she” as a general pronoun, rather than to refer only to women.)
But if your loved one needs some words from you to know that she’s still respected, loved, and understood, then write words to that effect.
I have created some cards to serve that latter purpose, with the custom text “Dearest Kim, I’m so very sorry” on the front, and “Dearest Kim, I hope you can forgive me. I was a fool to talk to you like that. I love you and treasure you. Love, Jim” inside. Note, however, that if you want to use just the front bit, with the orchids photo and the short I’m sorry statement, you can transfer this design to a flat card and keep just that part—but then make sure you write your name in that top line.
Then again, if you want to handwrite the greeting card, you can easily delete the inside text.
Please note that the text is actually crisp on the cards themselves! If you want to see it, just click on the images below.
The designs below have the same customizable text inside, so I’m showing only the front (which, again, you can transfer on a flat card if you wish to—just remember to add your name as well).
And also remember to send or bring a bouquet of actual flowers! Make sure, though, when you order them that they are real 🙂
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and my apology cards. As always, pins/shares are much appreciated! Thank you!
To a happier, healthier life,