Hi. My name is Adrianna Domingos-Lupher and I am a an escalator. No, not like the moving staircase. An escalator is an individual who, when engaged in an argument, uses both verbal and physical language to elevate an argument to catastrophic levels. Just ask my husband. He can tell you how I could take a simple disagreement about dishes and transform it into World War III. You see, I used to fight to win, and I’d pull out all the stops to get there. It took me seven and a half years to realize that fighting to win, just isn’t worth it.
Fighting To Win
When my husband and I have a disagreement, my ears turn off and my mouth turns on. Without fail. You would think that, with all of my training as a counselor and educator, I would be able to listen. Yeah, not to my husband, apparently. For some reason, when we disagree about, well, mainly la casa or something related to la casa, I immediately assume that my point of view is the right point of view and that he is just innately wrong.
Wrong about dishes, wrong about laundry, wrong about the bed, wrong about his shoes next to the door, wrong about the time three years ago when he left his cereal in the bowl in the sink and the spoon got stuck to the bowl and I could pick up the bowl using the spoon because the spoon had adhered to the bowl due to the fact that the cereal had dried between the spoon in the bowl from sitting in the sink all day (that’s a sore spot, in case you couldn’t tell)…just wrong.
And because he didn’t pick up his shoes, wash his bowl, or put his undies in the laundry basket, he obviously doesn’t love me or respect me, and every little issue automatically turned into total war.
Oh, we never just argued about the the bowl in the sink. Oh, no. I took it back. Back to the beginning of time. There was the one time he did this and did he remember the last time he didn’t do that. My voice gets louder, the words come faster, and all he could do was sit there and take it or engage me. Pobrecito, he has no chance against me.
For the first few years we were married, he would just sit there and take it. Which of course, just made me angrier. Not only had he not washed his bowl, he didn’t even care enough to discuss it with me. And the arguments went unresolved. I’d eventually end up in tears and say something stupid or hurtful and wind up apologizing to him. And nothing would improve.
As time passed, I inadvertently taught him how to join me in the escalation. We could go round robin for hours about the dishes. He’d tell me how it wouldn’t matter if he did the dishes because he’d just do them wrong, and I’d tell him how he was taking me for granted for assuming that I’d do them for him. And on, and on, and on, and on without end.
I’m getting exhausted just writing about it.
How We Broke Our Destructive Pattern
You know how we broke out of our destructive pattern? We got tired of wasting time in these knock-out-drag-out arguments.
We had to own our own behavior.
Owning your own behavior is empowering because once you acknowledge that you are doing something wrong or unhealthy, you are also assuming responsibility for your role in that destructive behavior. And most importantly, you can CHANGE those patterns.
I had to own that I have a tendency to overreact and take things personally. I had to understand that attacking him caused him to shut down and retreat.
He had to own that he doesn’t follow through on keeping up with his household chores and responsibilities. Minimizing my feelings over, what he saw as “not a big deal,” made me feel dismissed and taken for granted.
We made a pact, as friends, as lovers, as committed partners, that we weren’t going to do this to ourselves any more. We still slip. Old patterns are hard to break. The good news is that we don’t totally regress. I can catch myself overreacting. He knows when he’s not pulling his end of the bargain with the house.
When we notice ourselves heading toward old patterns, we verbalize it and we look out for each other. If I notice myself starting to boil over, I make the effort to step away to cool down. If he notices my mood shift, he’ll ask me if I need a moment to myself. If he’s slacking off in the house, I’ll kindly and patiently remind him to please step it up, because I need his help. Or if he notices that he’s slipping, he’ll acknowledge it by thanking me for staying on top of things and that he is sorry for not pitching in.
It’s far from perfect, but as each day passes, we become stronger allies. You see, the only way we can win is together.