The Dance of Connection

Rescuing women and men from the quicksand of difficult relationships.

When Fighting Gets Ugly, No Rules Apply but This One!

The number one "Anger Rule" when things go from zero to one hundred.

Remember this:  Leave Me Alone!” Means “Leave Me Alone!

Ideally partners can call an end to escalating fights before they get out of control. In real life, however, things can go from zero to 100 before one person realizes they should have exited the conversation earlier. When an argument has degenerated into a screaming match, or one person has absorbed more emotional intensity than he or she can manage, stop the interaction immediately.

When your partner says “leave me alone,” do it. If she doesn’t seem all that upset, you can offer one more invitation to keep the conversation going. (“I’m sorry I was being obnoxious. Can we try again? I promise to lower my voice”). But if your partner still wants to be left alone, force yourself to get away.

This mean no following her to a different room, no slipping notes under the door, no calling or texting, no adding one more word to the conversation until you’ve both calmed down.

The partner who stops the fight can take the initiate to revisit the subject within 24 hours, unless the issue was really small and stupid, or one person hasn't calmed down. Stop rules (“leave me alone”) don’t work well unless each party knows they can re-open the conversation at a later time.

When you’ve reached a certain level of intensity, no rules apply except this one.

Even pursuing your partner with the intention of clarifying your position or apologizing, is counterproductive when he or she has reached their limit. 

Leave Me Alone!” Means “Leave Me Alone!


Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., is best known for her work on marriage and family relationships and the psychology of women. Her book The Dance of Anger has recently been reissued.


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