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The Reset

November 06, 2020

Haven’t we all experienced a document suddenly disappearing from our computer desktop while working on it? Or a website freezing up and no amount of scrolling or keyboard tapping unlocks the freeze? Those are frustrating moments that can tempt us to toss the computer out the window.

There’s sometimes a simple solution: reset — restarting the device, or powering off and booting up again. Reset clears the deck and allows a fresh start. So, too, in relationships: reset opens a pathway forward after we’ve slipped into a pothole of unpleasant bickering, angry and hurtful words, or other regrettable entanglements. Even if we’ve already stepped away from the hot scene — maybe we’re avoiding one another, brooding or fuming or licking our wounds off in some corner — a reset can be enormously helpful. Here are some ways it’s done:

  • Seeing a moment between you and your partner escalating in a way you know leads to no good, say, “Let’s reset.” If your partner agrees, take some deep breaths and begin again — gentler, kinder and slower this time, with more compassion and willingness to understand where your partner is coming from, to look at the situation through your partner’s eyes.
  • Stuck in an unpleasant tangle, say “Let’s reset” with the aim of examining together what got you into trouble. Are either of you striving to be right rather than be smart? (See Right Versus Smart). Are either of you stuck in secondary anger and overlooking the more important primary emotions which, if expressed, might lead to a course correction? (See Behind the Anger). Are either of you hungry (See Nibble, Then Quibble) or tired (See Sleepless Nights = Worse Fights). Reset could help you climb out of the pothole and move things in a better direction.
  • If you and your partner decamped to your separate corners post-entanglement and you sense that the heightened emotion has settled down, come out of your bunker and say to your partner: “Can we reset and start again?” 

A computer reboot may not identify tech problems and reveal what went wrong in the first place. But it does offer a blame-free chance to start again, and for a while we’re more careful where our fingers strike the keyboard. With relationships it’s much the same, a reset allowing us to tread again but with more care and alert to the pitfalls that got us into trouble the first time.