Have you ever noticed how, after any number of years being together, we can say some pretty petty things to our intimate partners?
Of course, intimate relationships mean that we’re going to be with that person through all kinds of moods – theirs and ours. So it’s not unusual, for instance, that my partner would say something to me, innocently enough, and if I’m in a weird mood, I might throw back a snarky answer.
“I want a do-over!” is often the reply in our household to this, when one of us answers with what might be construed as a sarcastic or critical remark.
Ron and I have been employing this practice for a few years now and it’s a powerful “re-set” prompt that makes both of you stop and consider what just occurred. Importantly, it can put a lid on budding arguments.
“Why does it stop arguments?” you might ask.
When your partner says something that rubs you the wrong way, you immediately can feel that and possibly stop it from going any further.
But in order to do this, the skill is being aware of what feels good to you and what feels bad to you.
Let’s say for example, you ask your partner whether they’re planning on going to their pickleball game this week. They respond, “Why wouldn’t I be going? I go every week!”
Yes, that was pretty snotty.
Changing the Energy
“I want a do-over!” you reply (hopefully in a calm and firm voice).
This makes both people pause. And the offending partner needs to recognize and own their response that was out of line.
By the way, you don’t just pull this on somebody. Both people need to agree and be aware that there is an on-going “do-over” option in your relationship. Anytime, anywhere, one of you can request a do-over. I mean be discreet if you’re in front of other people and maybe lean over and whisper, “I would like a do-over on this later please.”
So here’s what a do-over might look like regarding the pickleball question now that you’ve both agreed to the do-over:
You ask the question again, “Are you planning on going to your pickleball game this week?”
NEW (do-over) answer: “I am! I really look forward to these. I have lots of fun and I’ve met some terrific people!” And as an extra bonus, they might add: “Maybe you’ll want to join me sometime?”
Wow! Look at what the two of you just accomplished!
You were present and aware of how you were feeling. You took the initiative to share with your partner that what they said did not feel good. You requested a do-over.
Your partner respected your feelings and consented to having a do-over. Your partner thought about what they had said and saw the error of their ways. Your partner then reformulated their response to be more sensitive (and pleasant) in their answer.
This goes both ways obviously. I framed it that your partner was saying the offensive thing. But it could (and will!) be you in the do-over hot seat as well.
It Starts with the Small Things
Usually what happens is that one person makes an off-handed critical remark and the other person answers in kind… so now you’re both pissed off and your communications will most likely go sideways from there. That’ll put you both in a disagreeable mood and it can just spiral.
That’s why this approach – the do-over approach – can stop the escalation in its tracks. Often when one of us asks for a do-over, it can softly diffuse tension and both of you may end up smiling when you re-wind the scenario. Ron and I often have a good laugh over what transpired.
Even more, the person who said the critical or sarcastic remark in the first place may be inspired to give it thought as to why they were in the mood to say that biting thing. With the do-over request, they may be prompted to be aware of what happened to them leading up to their prickly answer to you. For instance, they could have had a disturbing conversation with someone, which threw them into a sour mood.
This then gives them the opportunity to share with you what led up to them saying what they said. “I was so stressed by this news – I apologize for being so cranky,” is one possible direction this could go.
And this reciprocal sharing of honest feelings can lend a gentleness to the relationship that allows us to move back into a place of love and respect.
Let me know if you get the chance to practice this and how it turns out!
And if you want to explore more ways to integrate boundaries and caring into your life, I invite you to consider meeting me in Southern Portugal this October for a retreat that will help you enjoy a much richer emotional life. It will be a powerful and never-to-be-forgotten spiritual adventure!