grass seeds

We have all been hijacked in our relationship more than we would like to admit. Getting hijacked by our brain and reacting negatively is one of the most common experiences we have with our partners. It feels terrible.

You know the drill …

Your partner and you have a disagreement about something. It could be anything – big or small, important or ridiculous, personal or political-it doesn’t really matter. It’s the sense of being different that may cause you to disconnect and then react to each other. It is an old dance step that repeats. over and over. It is one of the most discouraging and repetitive experiences intimate relationship offers us.

Alas, what ensues next is also far too familiar for most of us. One partner feels panic as a result of the disconnect and then escalates their reaction to great heights (i.e. need to talk about it immediately, can’t let it go, keep trying to connect even in negative ways, starting yelling etc). The other partner shuts down (i.e. withholds, leaves the room, goes to sleep, refuses to communicate. etc). This is the scene of the hijacking.

It feels so bad and usually gets worse the longer it goes on and/or the more intense each partner feels about being wronged. The hijacking gets into full swing as each partner plays out their unconscious role during the attack. One will escalate the emotional climate while the other will pull back in retreat mode. While this is predictable, it is also out of control – not a good combination.

I call this the 3Ds… The Destructive, Discouraging Dynamic Attack.

So what is the answer?

Here’s an idea on how to avoid the 3Ds.

  1. Admit to yourself that a hijacking is taking place. This requires an honest self assessment that does not include primarily blaming your partner. FYI This is the hardest step and not meant for the faint of heart.
  2. Take time away from each other for 20-25 minutes (with a commitment to return after a predetermined agreed upon time). Time away means to calmly go to another room, to not slam the door on your way out, to stop talking, to go for a walk, to do whatever calms you and then return after the specified time has taken place.
  3. When you do reconvene all you are allowed to do is MIRROR each other or take a break from talking all together and MIRROR the next day. I know this is difficult but it is a much better result than a discussion which is likely to go sideways again.
  4. CALM yourself. This is critical to getting past the 3Ds. Finding calm is one of the most difficult human tasks to accomplish during an emotional hijacking incident. I think CALM can be better understood if we break it down into 4 distinct parts.


C stands for COUNTING breaths. Count your breath as you focus on it. Inhale for 4 counts, pause for 2 counts and exhale for 4 counts. Imagine that you are creating a circle with your breath as you count 4 in 2 hold 4 out. Continue doing this for minutes at a time. It changes everything.

A stands for ACKNOWLEDGE your partner is NOT YOU! Really say this to yourself many times over… my partner is not me and that is the reality.

L stands for Listen to your partner’s perspective. While you may not agree it is possible to decide to listen to their perspective while remaining quiet. To be successful at this remember to Breathe 4 in, hold 2 and 4 out.

M stands for Monitor yourself during the emotional interaction. This alone will force you to take responsibility for your part in the hijacking and allow you to respond a little more intentionally.

So to avoid the 3Ds practice CALM in your relationship. Just so you know, this isn’t supposed to be easy or feel good or even natural so don’t let that be your excuse!

Dare ya

For the next 2 weeks, practice breathing multiple times during the day – 4 in, hold 2 and 4 out.

Then take the big step and come up with a predetermined timeframe so the next time the two of you are hijacked you can institute the time out plan and avoid the 3Ds using the CALM 4 point plan. Mirror each other when you re-engage. Allow yourself to feel liberated and successful in overcoming emotional hijacking while it is in progress.

Good luck I know you can do it!

In support


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