There’s something in the air. It’s hard to describe but it’s there, hanging. Not dense like fog, you can’t see it. Not quite humidity, though you can feel it. You’ve experienced this before. You know what this is. But the name of it escapes you somehow. Let me help. That uncomfortable, quiet thing, is tension.
You may or may not be able to pin point the exact moment it descended and settled over everything like a layer of fine dust in an abandoned room. This doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know it’s there. And that you understand if left untreated, it will fester.
You will first have to get to the root of the matter in order to kill this weed. You can come right out and ask what the problem is, but I suspect that you already know. Somewhere inside you have an inkling that things went a little dishevelled when ‘x’ was said, or ‘y’ was done, or through some ambiguous combination of the two. And now everyone is upset.
It hasn’t been said, oh no, who dares to whisper such a thing? But it is evidenced by the subtle changes in routine. The slightly louder slam of the drawer. The erect back replacing the relaxed posture. The flame in the eye that belies the soft set of the mouth. And the overly polite exchanges where questions are answered in two words or less. This thing, this hot mess of unspoken annoyance, this, is the silent argument.
The silent argument is not to be confused with ‘I’m ignoring you’, ‘I’m not in the mood’ or ‘I’m unimpressed’. In the middle of argument there sits ‘u’ and ‘me’, so if only one of you is affected, congratulations, you don’t have a major disagreement you just have a tiff. Fortunately tiffs are easily resolved with flowers, or ice-cream. (Or new heels). But if you feel a duplication of annoyance with that pesky tension hovering, then an argument it is. And these need more than a little ice-cream to mend.
First you’re going to need to accept responsibility. Yes you. And before you start with the ‘it’s not my fault’ thing, let me interrupt to mention, no-one cares. If you want to fix things one of you has to be the bigger person. And since you’re the sensible one reading this, then it’s going to be you. Even if you really didn’t do anything, (as if), perhaps you (take note) could have managed your response a little better. Or something along those lines. Find that little loop-hole to get a conversation started.
Don’t know how to initiate the conversation? Schedule an appointment. Seriously. Tell your partner, I realize we’re having a problem and I want us to work this through but not with hot heads, can we have rum and Coke on the patio in an hour? As long as it’s not raining, you’ll get serious brownie points. (If you quote me you better give me credit).
Just don’t start with a question. Questions are to be avoided. Especially ‘how long you plan to be vex?’, ‘so you don’t want to tell me what bothering you?’ or ‘why you still getting on stupid?’. These should be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, while sentences of expression are what we’re aiming for, ‘I see you still getting on stupid’, doesn’t work either. Be gentle. Be honest. Be firm. Be fair.
Before you make a stew you have got to slice up the veggies, peel and dice onions, slice peppers and chop carrots. This is called preparation. And sometimes when you need to fix things, it helps to have a little prepping beforehand. Especially if you think you’re likely to lose your cool. (I understand). Write it down. Make a list of what you want to say, what works, what doesn’t. Feel free to raise problems, but you’re going to have to be responsible, because if you raise a problem, you need to come ready with a solution. If you don’t have a solution, don’t bring it up.
Fight fair. Give your partner the chance to write their list out too. You won’t always stick to the list and having it doesn’t mean you’ll have a nice smooth discussion about everything. But in the moments when you do lose your cool or get a tad hysterical, the list will keep you grounded and on point. So be sure to keep referring back to it.
Let by-gone go bye. It’s hard. It’s really, really hard. But if you both dealt with it before and you both decided not to discuss it again. Don’t. Bite your lip if you have to, but don’t do it. It will come back to haunt you. Like that super hot chili you washed down with a glass of cold milk, it will come back and it won’t be nearly as pleasant. So leave it out. But if you really think it’s unfinished business, you should probably schedule a special session just for that one.
Hash it out, come up with solutions and kiss and make-up. Literally kiss and make-up. It’s the best part. You’ve aired your silent argument and had a good old-fashioned vocal one, do you feel better? You should. If not you may have deeper issues that you need to work out together, or separately, or with a registered professional. But that’s a whole other post right there. Otherwise, and most importantly, the tension should be gone and you should be breathing some crisp, clean, drama-free air. Inhale. Exhale. And get back to loving each other.