Many people subscribe to the thinking that fighting is a normal part of any relationship. The existence of sayings that describe different types of “normal fighting” is proof in itself that we accept fighting as a part of life. Sibling rivalry, lover’s quarrels and family disputes are all the result of basic human nature. Assuming this to be true, you might say to yourself, “OK that may be true but where do I draw the line between normal fighting and irreconcilable differences?”
What is the difference between a fight and an argument? Can people really agree to disagree? In a perfect world maybe. For most people — couples in particular — agreeing to disagree can sometimes be a diplomatic way of describing a stand off.
There is hope though. By trying a few of the following basic strategies, you can deal with differences, hurt feelings and other common problems that often lead to fights. The first main ingredient for taking a new approach to old problems is agreeing to do so and agreeing on how to do so.
If you are in a relationship with a person you love, you aren’t ready to throw in the towel and you want to try something different, this advice is meant for you.
If you are involved in an abusive relationship or have simply had enough you probably need more than some basic advice.
I should say before I go much further that I am not a trained professional. I have worked as an Employment Counselor for the past 12 years and have a basic understanding of counseling principles. I rely to some extent on my personal experience as a 10 year veteran of marriage. I am also the kind of person who people have always liked to spill their guts to especially in times of trouble.
I suppose over the years I have learned more by listening than talking. In my opinion, these days, the art of skillful listening is very underrated.
The Need to Know
If we lived in a world the Beatles used to describe where “all you need is love,” we’d all be easier to get along with. In the real world we live in things are slightly more complicated. Spouses need ongoing reassurance that their needs are important and going to be met. Never mind the 80s way of thinking that human beings weren’t necessarily meant to be together in interdependent, relationships and all that matters is me. It hasn’t worked and we all know it.
Communication Is Always the Key
Communication is the key to understanding your spouse, partner, or significant other and to being understood. The first step to effective communication is listening. Letting someone know that you have heard what they said is vital. Usually after a fight people tend to be able to sort the issues out more clearly. That is because when we are experiencing anger, fear, or sadness, that’s all we can handle at the time.
We don’t hear what the other person has said. Have you ever had an argument with someone and then discussed it at a different time only to discover that neither of you can remember what it was you were fighting about? It is likely though that you can remember whether you were sad, angry or hurt.
It is difficult for most of us to separate our thoughts from our emotions especially when we are upset. Making that separation is a very important thing to be able to do. Usually both spouses have valid points and when you are in it together you always have to be prepared to compromise.
A general rule that’s good to use is talk only when you are both ready to listen. At the point that a discussion becomes heated, it is time to stop. Even 15 minutes of silence can do wonders. If both parties agree on this rule ahead of time, it is much easier to follow.
No Take Backs
If you sometimes say hurtful things and regret saying them later, you may be guilty of throwing the baby out with the bath water. This is to say that there is a huge difference between saying, “I hate you because of the stupid things you do” and “I’m really frustrated with some of the things you do. It makes me feel….” This last statement gets the message across and isn’t something you have to apologize for later.
Cooling Off Time
Try a cooling off time if arguments get heated. In my own experience, there have been so many times that if my husband had left me alone for a few minutes to collect myself, our arguments would have been toned down a few decibels.
Breaking Old Habits
It can be difficult to put some of these strategies into play because when we are upset or feeling vulnerable we sometimes protect ourselves with the same defense mechanism over and over again until it just becomes habit. People tend to act the same or say the same things every time they argue. How many times have you heard one spouse say to an other, “why do you always….”
An other aspect of difficulty in trying a new approach has to do with the fact that arguing is irrational and deciding to not participate in a potential argument the usual way is rational and most times, effective. Habits, especially old ones, are hard to break.
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