Have you ever found yourself about halfway into an argument with your spouse, and realizing that you were wrong?
You get that feeling in your gut that says, “Uh oh. Well, I’m gonna win this one anyway because he/she always thinks he/she is right, and it’s time to teach him/her a lesson! I’m doing my partner a favor in a way, right?”
Is it during this time that you “circle the wagons,” building a defense against anything your partner may say? As you both carry on this match, do you find yourself caught up in the “magic” of the fight, as emotions are high and your personal pride is on the line? Do you feel that there is no escape in which you can recoup any dignity if you don’t continue arguing?
I’m guessing that eventually you both get so angry that you end up leaving the room, or your partner ends up going for a drive to cool off.
FYI: It’s a bad idea for your partner to drive when angry, but how do you make that point when you’re both at the “crescendo” of a full-blown argument?
“By the way, John, driving while angry is dangerous! So boo!”
Now, I know that there are those of you who claim you never raised your voice at your partner in the 50 years that you’ve been married. Good for you, but that never-raised-a-voice ship sailed away many years ago for us.
So the rest of us HUMANS may need some tips on how to deal with these little (or not so little) arguments that happen during moments of weakness when we’ve had a bad day.
After having a few not-so-fun arguments, the following is what my wife and I came up with: We created a special word that we use as a reset button — “Rutabaga.”
This word has great meaning to my wife and me.
Rutabaga means that I messed up and I need a pass (or a mulligan, for you golfers) tonight. Rutabaga means that I am acknowledging my error, so please don’t hit me over the head with it. Rutabaga means that you and I need to rewind and delete our ornery interaction and talk about something fun. Rutabaga means the next time you need a Rutabaga, you’ll get a pass as well.
Rutabaga means that my wife and I love each other enough to forgive each other for our occasional tiffs. It’s not a perfect system, but Rutabaga gives us a chance to reboot the discussion that gets so cluttered up that we quite often forget what we were fighting about when the argument began.
The following is an example of using rutabaga in an interaction:
Me: You’re wrong, honey. Rutabaga IS spelled with an “e.” It’s R-U-T-A-B-E-G-A!
Wife: I just Googled it, and you’re wrong.
Wife (laughing out loud): I love you!
See how easy that was? In the midst of me losing all of my pride as a master speller, I was able to say with one word, “I’m wrong, so can we please hit the reset button and go watch ‘The Bachelorette’ in peace?”
I’m not saying that our method is the cure-all for everyone, but perhaps this tool can help you leave a bad place in an argument. It has certainly helped us.
This article was originally published on twoofus.org. Daniel Hubler is on the faculty of the Weber State University department of child and family studies. The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WSU.