My work-buddy Steve hung up from talking to Karen, his girlfriend of a year or so, slightly red in the face. He exclaimed, “Sometimes she makes me so mad”
No one can push our buttons better than someone we love. This is the person who is beginning to know where are all our best bones are buried.
Anger is an emotion that we can train ourselves not to feel. Call a timeout for the mad game that can hurt your relationship.
I tried a suggestion, “Well, Steve, just don’t get mad.”
Steve replied, “You don’t understand. I can’t help it. She just makes me mad.”
Steve can help it. We can all help it. No one can make us mad. We choose to be angry.
Steve says, “OK, but she goes over the same subject–the same thing over and over. She knows it’s going to make me mad. And once I get mad she can make all kinds of points.Sometimes I think that’s the only reason she does it.”
That is exactly the point. I try again, “She knows this particular thing makes you mad. She does it and lo and behold, you get mad. You could ignore her, roll on the floor laughing, or just change the subject. But when you get mad, you play the game. I’ll bet you raise your voice; she raises her voice; you raise yours some more, and off you go. When you refuse to participate in the game, Steve, she can’t play it alone.”
After Steve calmed down somewhat, by lunch, we mapped out a strategy. The next time Karen signaled she was ready for the mad game, Steve just said, “Karen, we’ve been over this subject time after time. The only thing that ever happens is that we both get mad. I will discuss it one more time providing we both keep our voices down and stay calm about it. In other words, we discuss this issue with the goal of resolving it once and for all. And we stick to the point, not air other grievances.”
Steve kept his voice down but Karen did not. So, Steve said, “Sorry, but we’re not discussing this anymore and I have to get back to work. I’ll see you later. I love you but good-bye for now.”
He said she tried twice that night to get their mad game going again. When he didn’t play, she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t make Steve mad or drag him into another subject.
The next night she tried a slightly different tactic but he remained calm. Apparently the fun was over, because it has not come up for the last week. It really isn’t that Karen is a witch; she just had a subject she would not let go. Plus, she could use a subject that she knew angered Steve to bring up other grievances, too. It was a perfect jumping-off point for other subjects that were harder to discuss.
When it worked once, she tried it again. It worked again; she tried again. It became a habit.
You can do this, too. The next time your lover/mate starts your “mad” game, whatever that is, just refuse to participate. He/she can’t make you mad when you don’t get mad!
True, it takes perseverance because you are conditioned to participate in the game, too. You play your part; he/she plays a part, too. But once one of you quits playing, the other will have to change actions or find someone else to fight with.
You have chosen to end the game.