The high incidence of divorce gives people good reason to be frightened by intense disagreements and anger; the men and women in these happy marriages learned not to threaten to leave in the heart of an argument.
It was understood that the quarrel did not signify the end of the marriage.
One woman explained it very well when she spoke about her marriage, "Whenever I said, 'That's it, I have had it,' he would take it seriously and think, 'Oh God, she's leaving.'
Finally I had to say to him, 'Look here, I am going to get really mad and very, very upset sometimes and say all sorts of things, but I am not going to anywhere.' That gave him a secure environment to be able to fight back."
Thus the first step in establishing a safety zone where strong anger can be expressed freely is to make it clear that the fighting will not breach the walls of the marriage. Both partners have to feel sure that their relationship is secure. If one or both partners have experienced abandonment, either as a child or as an adult, this message needs to be reiterated many times.
A good marriage provides a holding environment for aggression.
Broadly speaking the couple's love and friendship, the togetherness they have built, their shared interests and history including the children, all combine to provide the overall structure that contains the aggression.
The ties that unite them are far stronger than the forces that divide them.
Their awareness of this strength acts as a powerful deterrent to letting things fly out of control. It enables one person to interrupt the anger out of concern for the others and for the marriage. As one woman described, it, "when things get too hot between us, I say to him, "We don't want to do this to each other. That stops us both."
The recognition of absolute boundaries is very useful, not only as protection from harm but as a constraint that must be observed. In these marriages everyone understands that some remarks, once said, cannot be undone. All understand that rules, while providing safety, did not forbid heated arguments. One of the satisfactions of a strong marriage is being able to state your mind without fear of dire consequences.
The Good Marriage - Wallerstein & Blakeslee