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The One Trick To Pushing The Reset Button On A Struggling Marriage

It works like a charm, and I'm so grateful it does.

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Female and male hand pressing a reset button
Meiko Takechi Arquillos
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Like many couples, my husband and I often end up fighting more about the way we fight than about whatever it is we start to fight about in the first place. He gets passive-aggressive and/or will walk out of the room mid-altercation, while I go from zero to 100 percent angry in the blink of an eye every time we argue. There’s no “somewhat angry” for me.

We both pettily insist on having the last word, and I will stay angry and fuming for days. I’ll bring up the times he has hurt me in the past to add fuel to my fire, and he’ll deflect and deny his role in things with a straight face.

Pretty soon the fight accelerates, and we get nowhere in regard to solving our issues — only further down the road of aggravation and disappointment with each other.

He’s the baby of the family and I’m an only child — which means we each like to get our way. Factor in that we’re both Tauruses (read: extremely stubborn and headstrong) and a perfect recipe for hot-blooded conflict over disagreements or slights is created. Even after 26 years together, somehow we’re still terrible at the way we fight — no matter our fierce love for each other.

That one or the other or both of us will ultimately exacerbate an argument is nearly a given, but over the last few years we’ve at least learned to recognize our tendency to be dysfunctional at resolving our debates. I don’t recall which one of us first began to practice the art of the “reset” during our marital spats, but we both deserve the credit for turning to this practice again and again and using it like the helpful tool it has come to be.

For like all things relationship, “it takes two to make a thing go right.”

Here’s how the simple practice of the reset works for us in the hard moments: When things go south during a heated argument and we start to spin our wheels and get stuck in our emotions, one or the other of us will recognize we’re out of our depth yet again and wave the white flag in desperation by pleading, “Can we do a reset?”

That plea — and the sincere intention behind it to regain common ground — miraculously wields the power to stop us in our futile spin. It halts the same two people who both had a fight-to-the-death-of-the-marriage mentality coursing through our bodies mere moments before. Calling out for a reset works to instantly diffuse our red-hot anger, allowing us to get back on track toward a solution to our grievances.

The power of the art of the reset may seem silly or ineffectual at first read. After all, simply uttering the word “reset” doesn’t do anything to solve the actual problems at hand. But as weary as my husband and I are from fighting with each other so nastily over the years, the reset presents itself as a welcome relief to us both. It’s a neutral way for us each to admit we’re not always very good at conflict resolution and that we’re doing that thing again where we make everything worse rather than better.

The reset offers a mutual middle ground in which we can retreat and start again. I swear the word “reset” — and its implied request — is magic in the middle of a fight where we’ve both dug our heels in. It’s the bell at the end of a round that sends us to our corners and forces the fight right out of us.

Whether my husband asks for a reset or I do, the other typically responds in agreement with a softening of the eyes and shoulders and a newfound willingness to let the heat of the moment dissipate. I don’t know why such a simple tactic has had such a profound effect on us (two of the most hardheaded people I’ve ever known). If I had to guess I’d venture to say it’s because we’ve grown tired of the pervasive and persistent old patterns of behavior that don’t serve us well as a couple.

In any case, I just know the reset works like a charm, and I’m so grateful it does. It’s just the trick we needed to be able to take our flawed marriage and render it functional once again.