If you don’t fix this, you’re going to lose him.
He’s acting like a stranger. You’re still communicating, but you can feel the coldness.
With every day that passes, you become more and more anxious.
You’re no longer sleeping. You can barely keep your attention on your work.
Still no word from him.
You can’t sit on your hands and do nothing. It’s unbearable.
There must be something you can do.
Something to snap him out of this spell and restore the man you know and love.
You’ll try anything.
Beware: you’ve just crossed into the Danger Zone.
In everyday life, we know that certain situations are conducive to good decision-making while others aren’t.
Most of us make our best decisions when we feel calm, have time to think, and don’t feel pressured.
But when we’re stressed, anxious, impatient, or desperate, watch out!
The acronym HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired.
If any one of those four feelings has you in its grip, you’ll want to stop and take care of yourself before moving forward.
Unfortunately, when relationship crises hit, we tend to get swept away by strong feelings.
We feel angry (“how could my partner do this to me?”), lonely (“I can’t be on my own again”), and emotionally exhausted (“I just want this to be over”).
We lose perspective and act impulsively.
Instead of fixing things, we end up making it worse.
Life in the Danger Zone
You know you are in the Danger Zone when you…
You think about what’s going on obsessively. The same thoughts repeat on an infinite loop: how awful you feel, how terrible your situation is, how awful it will be if he ends it. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel, only darkness and desperation.
You assume the worst. You see signs of doom everywhere. Something as minor as the failure to return a phone call seems like proof he no longer loves you. You envision yourself alone and single for the rest of your life, having never met anyone who could love you like he did.
You fantasize about confronting him. You imagine conversations where you tell him exactly how much he’s hurt you and how much he’ll regret throwing your love away. You plan out what you’ll say in order to shock him into apologizing. When it comes time to speak those words, however, you may or may not go through with it.
Leave the Danger Zone
If you’re in the Danger Zone, STOP.
Don’t make any big decisions.
Anything you do while in the Danger Zone has a tendency to backfire.
If you can—and I know it might feel impossible—take a break from the situation.
Focus on your personal needs. Eat nourishing foods. Channel your anger into productive activity. Surround yourself with friends. Rest.
Then, once you can feel yourself breathing deeply again, try these 3 ways to address your relationship crisis.
1. Instead of Ruminating, Reflect.
Rumination is a pattern of obsessive thoughts that go around in circles. Rumination doesn’t help solve problems. But reflection does.
When you reflect, you take a step back and look at your own thoughts and feelings around the situation.
Instead of focusing on what he did and what it could mean, you get curious about why you responded the way you did.
Reflection can help you see the part you’re playing in the situation, which can inspire new ideas on how to resolve it.
2. Instead of Catastrophizing, put into Context.
When a crisis hits, everything feels urgent.
We can hear the clock ticking down to doomsday. We make wild assumptions.
Instead of letting your mind run away with you, stop and look for context.
What are you missing?
Do you know his side of the story?
Fill the gaps in your knowledge before drawing any conclusions.
3. Instead of Confronting, Communicate.
One of the most common mistakes in relationships is assuming that you know what your partner is thinking and feeling.
Even relationship masters can get this wrong. They make up a story about what their partner meant, and next thing they know, they’re in a fight over nothing.
But none of us can ever know what’s going on inside someone’s head unless we ask them (and they feel comfortable telling us).
So ask away!
Get curious. It’s okay to feel vulnerable and confused. Share with him your desire to understand his point of view.
Don’t try this if you’re still stuck in the Danger Zone, however. Anger and frustration can turn a question into a confrontation.
Do a check-in first. Are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? If so, HALT. Take up this conversation another time.
A crisis doesn’t have to spell the end of your relationship.
In fact, all lasting relationships weather a number of crises. It’s inevitable when you share your life with someone.
You’re more likely to sail through a crisis when you avoid the Danger Zone. Watch out for rumination, catastrophizing, and confrontation. Replace with reflection, context, and communication. You may just find that your crisis was a simple misunderstanding.