On Sunday evening, June 6, Chazaq hosted a virtual shiur for ladies featuring Sarah Chana Radcliffe, well-known author, speaker, and therapist, on the topic of how to fight right. She shared valuable strategies and insights that can help everyone’s shalom bayis.
First, she shared that we want to remove destruction, which is implied by the word “fight” and replace it with healthy negotiation. You have to see the big picture so as not to be caught off guard. The key is to be prepared for people to bother you. You don’t want to be surprised. If you have a bigger view, then you won’t be pulled into a bad scene, which can harm your relationship.
She taught that there is nothing you can do or say that won’t come back to you like a boomerang. You need to know in advance how to handle a negative remark. She added, “Negativity undoes positivity.”
One important rule is to not mention anything from 30 days before. Sometimes, people tend to throw in the kitchen sink, mentioning every fault. She explained that when we feel attacked, then we go into “fight or flight” defense. Our thinking brain shuts down. The initial reaction is not relationship-minded. We are sounding and looking crazy. She pointed out that there is a class of hurtful things. I might get verbally abusive, hurl insults, or be sarcastic.
When you hear yourself saying negative things, you need a strategy to stop. She explained how Level One is throwing it back at the person. Level Two is getting insulting and exaggerating. Adrenaline is catchy. We are using truly destructive techniques, and physical action can come next. These could include things like door-slamming, screaming, throwing things, threatening divorce, etc. The original issue is far removed at this point, and there is no problem-solving. Some people just go very cold and don’t speak to their spouse for hours, days, or weeks. This is their way of protecting themselves. Fight or flight causes you to act in a way you would not choose to act.
Mrs. Radcliffe shared that she posts daily parenting posts to help people start their day with awareness. The goal is to minimize damage. She added that even if you don’t do anything, that is a level. She advised everyone to read marriage books and read the daily parenting posts. Keep listening to shiurim. “You must work on awareness.” Also, you need to work on self-care. When you are tired or hungry, it is easier to grow upset. You need time for meaningful fun. It is important to do things like writing in a journal and spending time with friends.
She taught that there are hardly any emergencies in family life. An emergency is a fire or a child wielding a knife. You need to remind yourself that you don’t need an emergency response. You need to tell your brain to calm down so that you don’t respond right away. She then shared an example. A husband comes home and complains about the mess. First, ask yourself: Is the house on fire or is there a gun pointing at me? No, there isn’t, so I can take care of responding to this later. It is not an emergency.
She noted that we want a quick recovery. So, even if we had a bad scene, we need to learn a faster healing technique. Think and work it out on your own before you work it out with your partner. Lecturing and teaching is not a good strategy. It doesn’t work. We have to work it out in our own mind first. We also need good listening skills. When something happens fast and throws you off, you should go to a private space. Go to yourself before you go to your partner. “Your brain cannot work well until your feelings are intact.” Write in a journal quickly and this can help you discover your feelings. This will help you remove the rage. When you feel calmer, ask yourself what you need. Do I need more time for myself? Also, ask yourself what you need from your spouse. She emphasized that “when you do this, you must be feeling settled and have a plan.” Your spouse also has to be calm. When you communicate what you need, it has to be short, fast, and painless. Start off always with apologizing. “I shouldn’t have spoken to you like that. I am really sorry.” This helps to get the listener back down. She noted that a fight or bad scene doesn’t end the marriage. We don’t stop. We continue to live normally. We deal with the fight later. There is no emergency. We still love each other and we want to fix it for the future.
She added that usually a sincere apology begets one from the other person. Explain how it felt for you. When you do x, I feel y. I need you to do z instead. It’s important not to throw too many emotionally laden words at your husband. Problem-solve together and ask him what you can do to help him. Let him speak. You have to be prepared to help him with things he is doing wrong in communication. Be quiet and take notes because you want to grasp what he is saying.
She went through a few labeled steps. A. Let the other person talk. Summarize what he/she says in your own words. B. Validate it. Start by saying, that makes sense because… C. Resonate emotionally. Connect on a heart level. Name his emotions and add more feelings. D. Once you are calmed down, wrap it up. Say what we are willing to do to make things better. She said that now we are negotiating.
Marital problem-solving doesn’t mean that the first person is giving in to everything for the other. That makes for unhappy partners. This leads to a loss of the quality of the marriage, because people have feelings, and no one wants to lose 100 percent of the time. “We have to have the ability to give up and give in 50 percent of the time.” She added that certain things are not allowed, such as physical damage. We need to use words. Don’t try to solve things by yourself.
In a situation with pushing and smashing and braking things, this creates a scary home life for the family, and if this happens you need to bring in professional help.
Mrs. Radcliffe summarized safe communication strategies. “You want to speak about the issue, not the person.” Of course, avoid saying things like “You have no brains.” That is character assassination. Sometimes people will try to lead you away from the issue. You have to bring them back. Say: Oh, that is a good point but we need a plan to fix this.
She acknowledged that an intimate relationship is the most triggering relationship. The biggest part is to learn to hug yourself and get yourself out until you can calm down. “You have the choice to control your emotions.”
Everyone left well-informed and uplifted by this practical, vital shiur. It can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber