Different Endings Simulator
As you journal, ask yourself how you could best respond to the situation if you had a second chance – this time with plenty of time to consider alternatives. Because you are now out of the situation and just reflecting back on it, you should also be out of your lizard brain mode and thinking clearly.
By flying an airplane or driving a race car in a practice simulator, we are much more likely to handle a tough situation well when we experience it later in real life. In the same way, by visualizing a different, better response in your journal, you will be more likely to carry out a better response in real life the next time you are in a similar situation.
Start with the ending
First, think about what long-term outcome you want. Is it to win an argument? Prove a point? Or, is it to have a loving, close relationship with your partner? Getting what we really want in the long-term often means giving up what we may think we want in the short-term. Winning arguments and proving points have no long-term value. In fact, they usually have the negative effect of creating resentfulness.
If you were watching a movie where the couple fights frequently and sometimes violently, but the story ends with them living happily ever after, you’d say, “No way! Totally unrealistic! Couples with that kind of conflict are not going to live happily ever after.” You’d be right. Starting with the desired ending in mind will help you re-write the plot.
Fill in the plot
Next, consider how you’re most likely to create that good ending. Shutting down, stomping off, slamming doors, yelling, using any behavior that could be intimidating, or especially using physical force or violence, is going to be counterproductive to building trust, closeness, and intimacy in the long-term (the desired ending).
On the other hand, a script in which you are listening to make sure you really understand your partner is a much better start. Letting him or her know their thoughts and feelings are very important to you would be good additions to the script. Proposing solutions and checking with them to see if they address their concerns is another. Remember to eliminate distorted thinking from your character’s thought process. It will help you practice sound thinking and make the good responses you envision more realistic and more likely to happen next time.
It’s realistic and normal to not agree with your partner on every issue. Visualize yourself telling in a calm, loving voice while telling your partner how you see the situation differently. Write a script where you propose solutions and check with your partner to see if they address their concerns. Healthy relationships are not built on avoiding conflict or either person always giving in to the other. Rather, they happen when there is communication about each partner’s differences and when issues are resolved in a respectful way. Both people need to be heard and valued. This model of conflict resolution will go a long way towards building the kind of relationship you hope to have.
Sometimes these scripts are hard to imagine because we have not had people in our lives that modeled these roles. Doing what you saw your parents do or what you see your friends doing might be setting the standards too low. In a simulation of a disagreement, visualize your reaction based on the most calm and kind person you know, especially one who enjoys an excellent relationship with his or her partner, and whom you admire. What would they do in this situation? Think and journal about it in as much vivid detail as you can.
You may doubt that you’ll be able to carry out your simulation the next time you’re facing a similar challenge, but don’t forget that this exercise will still move you in the right direction. Even incorporating some of the positive elements from this script is an improvement. Over time, you’ll see real-life situations playing out with more and more of the good components and less of the bad ones. You will increase how fast you change by:
- Consistently running your overreactions through the Different Endings Simulator
- Envisioning your response based on the ideal response or modeling it after people who do it best
- Expecting that change will happen over time, giving yourself grace when you make mistakes, and sticking with the process.