How can you break free of this cycle? Learn to listen to each other. Before I teach you how to do that, we need to identify and eliminate the three behaviors that are polar opposites of good listening. They are defending, justifying and counterattacking (turning the tables). Let me give you some examples:
Defending and Justifying: Mary tells Peter that she is hurt because he forgot her birthday. Instead of listening and understanding her pain, he defends and justifies his mistake by saying, "I had a good reason for forgetting. I got caught up preparing our taxes and I forgot to check my calendar."
Counterattacking: Mary tells John that she is upset because he forgot to take his turn grocery shopping. Instead of listening and understanding, John counterattacks by saying, "Well, you forgot to wash my laundry yesterday."
Why do so many couples resort to defending, justifying and counterattacking instead of listening? In distressed relationships, listening has been lacking for so long that the partners feel starved to be heard. Not trusting that the other will listen, they both jump in at the same time, shoving their points down each other's throats. Yet listening is the cement of a happy marriage. To avoid divorce, you must vow to move heaven and earth to do a better job of truly hearing each other.