The other night, my husband and I got into an argument. It was 10 pm. We had spent the day doing household chores, cleaning out the garage, going through old boxes, etc. We were exhausted. My husband was dealing with some back pain and with that on top of being tired, he was flat out crabby. I was upstairs cleaning up after dinner. He went downstairs to finish up a project. All of a sudden, I heard him call out in frustration. I rushed downstairs and the following conversation took place:
Him: “OMG, that stupid _______ cat jumped up and knocked down everything on the computer desk that I just organized/cleaned”.
Me: “Why did you leave things up on the area where you KNOW the cat jumps up?”
Him: Silenced anger.
Me: “I’m going to go to bed. Goodnight”.
I go back upstairs.
A moment later, he comes stomping up in a huff.
He was MAD.
Mad at ME.
Mad at me because I defended the cat and didn’t sympathize with him.
Basically, I said the same thing he would say to me or our son if either of us left something up in the exact area the cat has always jumped up on. When I brought this to his attention, all he could reply was that I defended the cat and not him. After this argument went on for way too long, I reminded him of our conditions:
“I am tired. You are tired. Your back hurts. You are crabby. Let’s just drop this.” (OK, maybe not the most eloquent but give me a break, I was tired too).
Eventually, he calmed down to a point where we were both laughing, and he admitted that he was crabby (geez, ya think?) and it was a dumb thing to be arguing about.
Long, long ago, that fight would have erupted into something major and ugly. I’m talking the full on, two hours+ long fights that have no resolution because by the time you are both so worn out and exhausted you can’t even remember what you were fighting about in the first place. After one such fight many years ago, my husband and I pinky-swore that we would work really hard to not carry on with a fight if one of us was one of the following:
-Hangry (a mix of hunger and anger for those who aren’t familiar with the term)
We decided that if either one of us (or both) were feeling the above conditions, we could try and agree to let it go for the time being. If in the morning/after we had eaten it was still a big deal we could continue the discussion at that time. Sometimes the situation comes up where we do continue the discussion, but it is a heck of a lot calmer and more logical than trying to do it under the influence of hangry, being tired or crabby. Other times, like in the situation of last night, we don’t continue to talk about how I took the cat’s side instead of his.
Does this always work? No. But I can honestly say it has saved us from a number of ugly fights, and we do try to keep it in mind if we find ourselves starting to get nit-picky. We both play an active role in trying to remind one another of our current state of being to de-escalate the situation. The hard part is during the heat of an argument, actually stopping and being able to drop the issue at hand, which is something we’ve both had to work on. If you or your partner are having a hard time dropping something, it helps to remember that you both will feel better in the long run to drop it versus letting things get out of hand and blown into a huge fight. The other hard part is being able to accept from your partner them telling you that you are hangry, crabby, tired, etc, and trying not to get defensive. If my husband says something like that to me, I try to remember that it is coming from a place of him not wanting to get into a bigger argument and that usually helps calm me down enough to accept what he is telling me.
Overall, by adopting the ‘hangry’ rule, we have saved lots of time and energy. Additionally, I truly believe it has helped make our relationship even stronger, helped us become more self-aware and humble, which are all good things in my book. If you want to adopt the rule into your household and/or relationship, start off slow and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work 100% of the time. Don’t be afraid to add or remove things from the rule to better fit your family or relationship. And finally, try to find humor in the situation like my husband and I did when I was ‘defending our cat’ over him (this probably doesn’t need to be said, but please note that I wouldn’t recommend using this rule for more serious conversations).
Do you and your family/partner have any rules to help reduce arguments, tension or fighting? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!