Frank went out to pick up some groceries, but Meredith didn’t know where he was. When he returned, Meredith expressed her upset feelings about not knowing where he was. Frank said he thought she had heard him say goodbye, and then said, “I’ll make sure you hear me going forward.” She responded with a neutral okay but then the conversation eventually devolved into whether they were going to make it as a couple or not.
The challenge for couples is to recognize where the flashpoint occurs and then how to navigate the conversation differently. Typically, both individuals can do something different to prevent an escalation. In this case, the wife’s neutral okay set the husband off. He was proud of how he dealt with the miscommunication—acknowledging his wife may not have heard his goodbye—but his wife’s tempered response didn’t mirror his proud insight.
Now knowing this, Meredith said she could have been more appreciative of his commitment to doing better in the future. Frank admitted that instead of reacting to her disappointing response, he could have told her what he needed, e.g., her acknowledging his willingness to improve moving forward.
Being able to identify the flashpoint and knowing how to navigate the situation differently is what differentiates successful couples from unsuccessful couples. Clarity in these moments is what creates change for couples.