The Chill Out Fire Storm by Jennifer Olden, LMFT

Disclaimer: My point of reference is that of a wife in a heterosexual marriage that generally fits the stereotypes. However, as a therapist, I have seen the roles switch. I’ve worked with gay and lesbian couples where gender isn’t the defining label. So, take this article with a grain of salt and look for the parts that fit.

My husband has the annoying habit of saying to me right after I bump my head, “Be careful.” It’s reflexive on his end and harmless but also NOT HELPFUL. Advice, even with a positive intention, can end up escalating the disconnection.
Take the directive, “Chill out.” Never in the history of humankind has a person relaxed in response to the phrase, “Chill out.” It has the opposite effect nearly every time. If I’m upset and someone, namely my husband, says, “Chill out” I will probably want to claw off his face. This is not chilling out. Here is a short list of similar phrases that when uttered will make your wife freak out.

Yeah, right!

Yeah, right!

1) Chillax.
2) You are being irrational.
3) Stop stressing out. It’s no big deal.
4) Have you taken your medication?
5) Is it that time of the month?
6) You are overreacting.
7) You are always upset about something.

When a woman hears these phrases, she will NOT suddenly get access to her prefrontal lobes and become a beacon of logic and reason. She will more likely get more irrational, more reactive, and more upset. These phrases are gasoline, my friends. Avoid them at all costs.

So what do you say instead when your partner is freaking out over something seemingly small that doesn’t make sense to you and really appears to be some sort of chemical imbalance? How do you address it in a way that re-connects the two of you? Try these phrases:

1) I want to get close to you, but right now you seem so mad at me it’s hard to connect, though I really want to. What can I do?
2) I want to be the antidote to your problem, but it seems like I’m the cause. That makes me go away. I need you to talk to me about what is bothering you without blaming me for everything.
3) Look, I’m imperfect and I make mistakes, but I love you and I am here.
4) I’m on your team, and we are in this together. You are the most important person to me.

The point is that if you couch your response in caring and validation you will get a lot more traction in your ultimate desire to connect than using the phrase, “Chill out.”

The Attachment Dance of Couples Blog

The Attachment Dance of Couples Blog

Love Strong,

Jennifer Olden, LMFT and Partner

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