The all-powerful signal

Every moment won’t be roses and cherries.  When strife, criticism, contempt, stonewalling, or defensiveness rear their head, and negative feelings heat, or bake, the air around you, successful couples often have a release valve.  Some of these special emergency breaks can be used in the moment, while others require some space and a moment of reflection. 

One of you needs the presence of mind and courage to use the signal to create that break in what is happening, and allow a more positive future to unfold.  For successful strategies on how to manage conflict afterwards, see the Education section. 

 

Signaling Peace:

  • Quote from an early or poignant love letter or phrase your both remember well
  • Leaving old love notes/e-mails/letters for the other, and that positive state of mind cue will hopefully be triggered/remembered, and invite that space into the present.
  • Return to the beginning . . . where met / coffee shop / restaurant / pictures of when were first together / see movie special to both of you / etc.
  • A hug that is both firm and warm
  • Rock left on the bedroom pillow (or car seat), which is a signal that a talk is necessary.  Another cue shared was a piece of 2x4 wood, which related to a story of how it feels to be in this space for both of them – like getting hit with a 2x4.
  • An accident or highly stressful/dangerous event that you were both there for.  Cueing that time can also cue what is really important – one another.  For one couple, the signal was “Are you okay?”  They were in a car crash, and the airbags had gone off, with both of them holding their broken noses and looking at their bloody faces.  Much later, if one of them held their nose and said “Are you okay?”, it was an invitation to remember that their relationship and health are what are important. 
  • An argument around whether it was a sweet potato or yam turned unnecessarily heated and fell apart.  Later, they both realized they had overreacted, and it wasn’t as important as they made it out to be in the moment.  The signal, later, was simply to ask the question, “Is it a sweet potato or a yam?”, which broke the state and allowed a moment to take a different approach.

 

Principal Purposes Served

  • Communicate values and beliefs
  • Manage conflict
  • Emotional money in the bank
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