How to Evade Difficult Conversations   

An old rendition of the "Get Out of Jail Free" card from Monopoly.

In a previous post, I shared “Deer-in-the-Headlights – A Poem About Overwhelm” and promised you, among other things, a way to escape futile conversations with a “Get out of Jail, Free” card.

True to my word, at the bottom of today’s post, you’ll find an instantaneously downloadable “Get out of Jail, Free” card you can quote or print out to help you politely evade immobilizing exchanges. I think your past, present, or future partner will love you all the more for sharing it.

Why? Because optimism isn’t preventative.

It might be tempting to hope you’ll face every conversation with honor, valiance, and whatever other virtues are called for…. but in reality, preparing for continued intermittent relational stress is as common-sense as buying QuickBooks if you detest bookkeeping: you want tools that make it easier!

Plan Your Escape

Let’s face it: difficult conversations are a recurring energy-suck. (Common enough that you’re reading a blog post about it.) And tension – a word frequently used to describe how we grow and strengthen our muscles – will recur whether you want it to or not.

Wishful thinking may tell you to reserve a “Get out of Jail, Free” card for what it said on the Monopoly version: UNTIL NEEDED OR SOLD.

When is that?

…Do you hand her the card as you get up to leave… when you need to exit? When you give up on yourself? Pfffff…!

That’s one approach. Wanting to “wait and see” whether it feels appropriate is super understandable!! However…

Since feeling like a deer-in-the-headlights is so overwhelming… in those moments, your problem-solving capacities are debilitated. You’re actually highly likely to forget, fumble, or miss that window entirely. Right? Most likely, you’ll just feel “glued to the spot.”


Not Your Fault

Just because you can do something about quarrels (which I’ll provide more support for in other posts) doesn’t mean the preceding tension is your fault.

“Fault” is, in fact, a cumbersome and useless lens. Being in a position to stop something midway does not mean it’s wrong that it happens in the first place. The ability to put a stop to something does not imply that you could’ve just shut it off earlier or prevented it altogether. Or should have. Or that anyone else could/should have.

Contention is just a glitch of life. A tricky glitch. Because you can only help debug this particular system from within the system.

Regardless of whether or not you cause the glitch, you can help resolve it.

Evasion is Part of the Solution

Without having deployed a “Get out of Jail, Free” card, taking a break won’t necessarily free you from your partner’s apparently high-stakes agenda to have you understand, apologize, say “I love you” or whatever on an unrealistic timeline.

When a “Get out of Jail, Free” card HAS been deployed in advance, the odds of returning to a more successful conversation go up. Significantly. Not because you train her to “act calm or I’ll walk away.” Nor because you avoid her (or specific topics) ever after.

Your odds of success go up because the “Get out of Jail, Free” card clarifies your reasons for walking away in advance:
You’re trying something new for your mutual benefit!

The Opposite of Abandonment

The “Get Out of Jail Free” card doesn’t support you in abandoning the conversation entirely. Nor your girlfriend, nor yourself. It supports continued relating. It helps you both “stick it out” through the hard stuff without accidentally abandoning yourselves.

This is important, because it’s in these kinds of moments that both parties tend to abandon themselves and/or the other.

What I mean by that is: it’s easy for Person A to get so preoccupied with what Person B’s behavior might mean, that their own behavior becomes uncontrolled, unconscious, like a firefighter barging through obstacles to what they want to salvage — as if the relationship is going up in flames. Person B may feel so analyzed, scrutinized, mentally invaded or emotionally encroached upon, that Person A mistakes that for suspicious levels of guarded defensiveness, or frusrating obliviousness to what Person A sees as “obvious.”

When you walk away in order to ‘reset’ that dynamic, you walk away with the intention to return and enter into a different dynamic, step into a different mental ‘dance,’ and sniff out a different flavor of connection.

Promising to check back after X minutes is pivotal.

As is actually doing so.

“Checking in” Doesn’t Mean “Checking it Off”

“I’ll be back in 30 minutes. I love you so I will want to resolve this ASAP. I can’t promise to resolve this before life can continue, though. That’s too much pressure.
Our life together will continue, even while this is unresolved. It might be hard, but we’ll be in this together.
How about tomorrow over dinner we each bring new insights and questions? That’s what I can offer. That’s the soonest that I can re-engage with this particular topic. My nervous system just needs time.”

– my partner

Promising that this topic can be discussed “Thursday instead of TV” or “Saturday, when my work deadline is over” might feel like the WRONG thing to say to a girlfriend who’s looking urgent enough that even the slightest disengagement feels scary. But I swear, if Thursday is honestly the first moment that you can imagine having this conversation GO WELL, and you don’t have what it takes right now, speaking that truth will set you free.

It’s boundary-setting. Honest and true. Not what you wish were true, but the actual, honest-to-goodness truth.

And you’re walking away. So if she’s mad about the truth right now, check in again in 30 minuntes. She may see that that’s just what’s true. She may realize it won’t go well before you (both) recalibrate.

If she doesn’t, you can always reassure her you want this resolved, too, and you know it’s not easy, but it won’t work if you’re too anxious to resolve her upset.

Here’s That Pivotal “Get Out of Jail, Free” Card.

Pivotal tip:

Every time you go on another walk, or ‘go away’ in any way, shape, or form, give her your new ETA as a way to prevent making things getting worse from her feeling abandoned/rejected.

Last tip:

Maybe don’t call it a “Get Out of Jail, Free” card to her. (I just call it that because that’s what it is when I give it to you.)

When you give it to her, it may feel more like a love letter.

Let it be what it is to each of you.

I’m truly curious:

Did you print it? Email it?
Are you waiting for the next post, first?

Please DM me on social media, or email me, Bree [at] “website!”

An old rendition of the "Get Out of Jail Free" card from Monopoly.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

I'm curious what you think!

Let's connect!
Just reply to my email.