Escalating the argument is another way of protesting that you are growing strong enough to set limits, or to distance yourself. This happens when your relative overreacts to your complaint, no matter how polite and carefully worded it was. You probably spent time rehearsing how to approach your relative in as respectful a way as possible. You had high hopes of resolving the issue to everyone’s satisfaction, but you can see now that you needn’t have bothered.
What should be so simple to resolve, if everyone involved truly cared for each other, will turn into a huge battle. No matter how nicely you try to start out, things will go downhill real fast. There is no reason at all for a big fight, but an abuser will start one out of any perfectly nice attempt to clear the air. Your relative will make a mountain out of a molehill and blow a slight disagreement all up out of proportion.
Once again, normal people do not react this way. How easy it would be for your relative to say, “Oh, sorry. It won’t happen again.” End of discussion, problem solved, and everybody’s happy. Now wasn’t that easy? But, Noooooo……It’s gotta turn into World War III!
Why? Again, it’s the adversarial spirit vs. the cooperative spirit. Abusers regard such discussions as golden opportunities to vent and have temper tantrums. Your abuser isn’t looking for a compromise, a mutual solution, or a relationship in which everyone can be happy. He is looking for POWER and CONTROL. This isn’t a partnership, he wants to be the BOSS! How dare you? Who do you think you are to speak like this to him? You are just a bug he can squash under his feet.
Now, he can’t come right out and tell you that he won’t stand for anything less than total domination. If he’s honest, you’ll probably run for the hills, and he won’t have you to kick around anymore. But he can get more and more outrageous and demanding, knowing that you will feel obliged to respond. He can get all worked up and enraged, knowing that you will probably feel that you must stick around to try to calm him down and reason with him, because it was never your intention to upset him. As long as you try to explain yourself, justify your position, or even scream and yell back, he has won- because you’re still attached to him.
When you realize that your attempt to have a calm, rational, respectful discussion is being turned into a nasty, full-blown argument, take control back and END IT. Just stop talking, hang up the phone, or turn your back and walk away.