“It’s a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately filling up the space.” ~ Pema Chodron
My mother once gave me a sage bit of advice: “Once something is said, it can’t be unsaid.” How true. When you’re in a relationship, you really get to know your partner. This also means that you grow to understand his or her vulnerabilities in a way that other people wouldn’t. This can be a lovely thing if you choose to use that knowledge to be supportive and empathetic. However, there are times, perhaps in the midst of an argument, that this knowledge of your partner’s soft spots can be used to hurt.
Oftentimes, as a discussion turns into an argument, you forget your original goal of understanding each other’s point of view and begin to get lost in the desire to win and verbally clobber your partner. That’s when you need to take a beat. This is the moment of decision; the moment that marks maturity vs. immaturity. You can choose to fling hurtful words that will hit the bullseye of your partner’s soft spot. Or, you can choose to think before you speak, knowing that what you say may never be forgotten. Yes, you can always apologize afterward. But there are some things that aren’t forgotten, like downright cruelty. And lashing out at your partner with the exact words that you know will hurt him or her most is downright cruel.
You might think that you can’t stop yourself and have no control over what you say in these heated moments. But that’s not true. We often realize as we’re about to say something, that it’s a bad idea. Even if you can only stop in the middle of your statement, then stop. But more often, as you practice being aware, there is a moment when you know you can stay quiet or you can indulge your ego by flinging out cruel words and being hellbent on winning the battle. But you will eventually lose the war, because you will lose your partner if you keep being cruel to them about the vulnerabilities they’ve shared with you. To protect themselves from being hurt, they’ll become more careful about revealing themselves to you and become more distant, and that’s the beginning of the end of your relationship.
Practice taking a beat. In music, singers often take a beat because they want to emphasize what’s coming next. So take a beat because what comes next for you will be momentous. It will either be a moment where you damage, perhaps irreparably, your relationship. Or, it will be a moment of growth and maturity. You decide.