My husband and I have known each other for over thirty years. People think we don’t fight. Our marriage IS great, but despite what people think, we fight. We just fight differently. And we established early on that fighting does not equal divorce. The reassurance that every disagreement is not the harbinger of the end gives us some confidence in speaking up. It let us establish communication based in trust, not based in fear. We value each other when angry and have unspoken rules that evolved through three decades. Using my years of work and experience, I’m sharing a two part series of my rules and tips on how to fight with your significant other.
So, to start, here are three tips on how to fight, learned from years of “togetherness.”
Tip # 1: Determine what you want your relationship with the other person to be after the fight. This is important. If you don’t value the other person, then go for it. No holds barred. Grab the verbal brass knuckles and go for the groin. But, make sure this is what you really want. This type of fight is win/lose, and you could end up on either side of that. Even if you win, how will you feel afterwards? Probably ashamed or embarrassed at your speech or behavior. Some things can’t be forgotten. Sometimes, a win/lose fight ends up being a lose/lose fight in the end. No relationship is in a vacuum. There are shared friends who will judge and critique behavior. This type of fight can affect more than just you and your SO.
Friends notice we don’t complain or tear each other down. I cannot speak for my husband, but I believe we’re two halves of a whole. In tearing him down, I tear down a part of myself. Support him, I support myself. Value him, I value me. Often friends, children, co-workers, acquaintances, and even strangers on the street receive more forgiveness and grace than we give our SO. This makes no sense. If this is the person I spend my life with, why treat others better?
Tip #2: Is the conflict factual or emotional? I have a symptom of PMS that tells me my husband does nothing around the house. The symptom is this specific. Now when the thought comes into my head, I pause, consider the day of the month, and figure it’s my coming period. Did I know this the first (or 25th) time? Of course not, but now I know and remind myself of all the things he does for us. Of course, PMS may not be the only reason something is emotional. Is a nap, a snack, a break, or help with something needed?
Which leads to my last tip:
Tip #3: Need help? Ask for it. Quick scenario: you break down on the side of the road. Do you sit there hoping someone will read your mind and send a tow truck, or do you call? I know what you’re thinking, and no, it is not different. Unless you married Kreskin, no one can predict when you need help. Is it nice when someone notices? Absolutely. Can you blame them when they don’t? No. We need to be accountable for how others treat us. Ask for help, speak up when you don’t like something, speak up when you do (it’s called positive reinforcement), share when you’re overwhelmed, AND when you’re happy.
It is interesting how we coach our kids through handling conflict and speaking to people they are struggling with, but sometimes forget our own advice. We teach our kids rules for games, rules for language, and techniques to control their emotions. Setting these same parameters for conflict within our relationships encourages us and our SO to stay inside the lines when conflict occurs. It bolsters trust and maybe, just maybe, helps reduce future blow ups.
Want more? The next part of this series is Basic Rules for Fighting with Your Significant Other.