Looking for a better way to fight?
Many of us behave badly when we’re fighting with someone we love, probably because there seems to be a lot at stake.
For example, when you are arguing:
- You may feel terribly disrespected or wronged by a person who means a lot to you.
- You may feel like you suddenly don’t understand or know the person to whom you have felt
closest in the world.
- You may feel as if the person whom you love doesn’t love you.
- You may feel totally alone.
Little wonder that many of us are not at our best in these situations.
Even after we’ve apologized and made up, bitter words, actions, and feelings linger and can erode a relationship.
So, it is well worth asking yourself: Is there a better way?
Here’s the first step to more productive fighting: Look at your behaviors (including silence) when you are angry with someone you love, and ask yourself:
- Are you trying to make him or her feel anxious, afraid, or guilty?
- Is your aim to manipulate the other person?
- Are you trying to be hurtful or “get back” at your partner?
You may feel that there is no alternative to behaving like this when you are angry. Or, you may fear that even if you would like to fight differently, in times of stress you will not be able to do so.
But you can fight without destroying the good feelings between you and the person you love.
When you fight cleanly, you find ways to stay connected to the other person rather than pushing him or her away. For example, you could:
- Resist being attacking, manipulative, or retaliatory.
- Find ways to soothe yourself so that you can be calmer and less reactive toward the other person, even while you are fighting.
- Recognize your own role in what is happening and put your focus there (your anger is likely to deflate like a pricked balloon).
When you can find ways to become more flexible and to calm yourself when you are angry, you will lessen the risk of damaging your relationship when you fight.
Cindy was furious at Craig because he had not initiated sex in a while. Feeling rejected by Craig, Cindy had responded by giving him “the silent treatment.”
Not surprisingly, this did not lead to increased sex.
Instead, Craig became sarcastic and began spending less time at home. Other types of intimacy such as hugging and hand-holding also disappeared.
As I was working only with Cindy, I asked if she wanted to take Craig’s lack of initiation as a personal insult, pushing him away; or if she might instead ask him what was going on.
Speaking to him about this was scary for Cindy, because she feared the possibility of hearing that Craig was no longer interested in her sexually.
But Cindy did not want to be controlled by her fear, so she found the courage to speak up.
When she learned that Craig was depressed, she was angry that he had not shared this with her and had not sought treatment.
Nevertheless, she stayed connected with Craig as he told her that he had been keeping his sad feelings to himself because he didn’t want to seem “defective.”
Cindy’s openness and querying, even when she was angry, contributed to Craig’s seeking help. Cindy also looked at her own reluctance to initiate sex and began taking some responsibility in this area.
The good news: all of these changes helped to improve their relationship.
Looking for some help in changing the way that you fight for the better? Reach out to me; I’ll be glad to assist.