Updated: Apr 17, 2019
Has this thought occurred to you more times than you'd like to admit, "I am so sick of having the same dead end argument about _____ (money, commitment, who does the house work, etc.) over and over and over and over again?
Most of us have been told all of our lives that fighting is a ‘normal’ part of marriage. Or, more broadly, that it is just a part of life. And, that the make-up sex will be worth the fights
(Oh, by the way, make up sex is incredibly rare - most people don’t actually have make-up sex; it’s not really a thing for most couples, since sex stems from feeling connected, and couples usually feel dis-connected after a fight…so, that is myth, number one!)
There are many who believe that fighting is healthy in a relationship. People are certainly welcome to their opinions, but this too is a myth. Learning to work out differences, learning to be accepting, learning to be increasingly collaborative, growing in love and willingness and courage - are actual parts of a healthy relationship!
But, fighting is not and it IS optional.
It's a journey to create and live within a conflict free home environment. And, quite honestly, not all people want a peaceful home. Some people are really drawn to drama. That is ok.
But, for those who do want a peaceful, inspiring, caring, connected and collaberative home-life, know that it is more than possible, and read on!
The thing is, couples don’t realize often times that they aren’t actually fighting about money, prioritizing family time, or who does what chore around the house, who takes the kids to what event, etc. What most couples are really fighting about is their desire or wish to feel so great together, but instead they are not feeling connected, not feeling valued, nor appreciated, nor feeling seen,-- likely, a combination of these factors.
Interestingly, when we look at the outcome of fighting, we can easily see that the results and consequences of fighting are not desirable. Fighting has a pretty broad scope of unfortunate consequences ranging from snarky bickering to shouting to out right screaming, door slamming, and name calling and can occur seldom to daily. When looking at fighting patterns, there is often one partner who is great at arguing and the other partner who tends to shut down.
Regardless of what form the fighting takes, consequences are real and lasting and have varying degrees of impact on the relationship. Here are a few ramifications that fighting (which is a another name for aggression and anger in most cases) can incur:
Trauma: For the mind, body, spirit to mark a situation as a trauma in the brain, a fight need not be as dramatic as you might think. Trauma is unique to each person. Trauma is experienced subjectively and individually. A stern voice to one person, can be as traumatic as screaming to another person Often times fights that don’t ‘seem’ to be a big deal to one party can be experienced as trauma to another.
Remember this truth, especially when you are fighting for the sake of winning, competing, or simply to get your own way. The damage being inflicted may be much greater than intended.
And... here's a great secret... most fights are due to either 1) a lack of accepting your partner and his or her views as equal, but different and embracing differences or 2) a lack of a really good, but simple, family, home or work system.
Emotional armor: When couples fight, the armor goes on. Couples don’t feel close or connected or caring or appreciative when fighting -- and isn’t that the total opposite of what we want to experience? Moreover, the real roots of fights and conflict tend to trigger additional emotional weapons:
Criticism, passive aggression, blame, defensiveness, name calling, shut-down, pouting, eggshell dancing, yelling, and so much more, sneak in the backdoor of relationships and begin to do thir damage almost immediately.
Next, the blue emotions, sadness, loneliness, guilt, shame, pride, grief… are unfortunate outcomes of (or even triggers for) fighting. And, there's really no winning when these feelings are afoot.
Fear: once patterns of fighting within relationship are set up and frequently engaged, couples tend to become afraid. Afraid to re-connect, afraid to touch one another, afraid to even speak sometimes, afraid to mess up again, afraid to do or say the wrong thing to set off another emotional bomb!
Yes, fear really stinks.
Loss of connection: First and foremost, couples want to feel connected, right!? So, fighting obviously throws a wrench in the works. Connection is the basis of emotional safety, and emotional safety is essential for a lasting and joyful relationship and a key to removing the same darn fights that tend to be on 'rinse and repeat'.
There are 2 paths you can take, and one of them is super baller at stopping fighting
Accept fighting as a part of your life and choose to live with it and the consequences.
Make a firm commitment to get on a path to let go of fighting in your relationship so you can be and feel connected, peaceful, cared for, loved and loving, and totally and utterly collaborative as a gorgeous effective team!
Hopefully, anyone who has made it this far into the reading this post has already chose option two! Read on to discover simple steps to take to begin to eliminate fighting from your life.
1) Seek Win-Win Solutions
Here's the thing, if you're both not winning, you ARE both losing! If you're not seeking 100% collaboration and an elegant solution, then one, or both of you, are competing against each other.
Why would you be in competition with your PARTNER anyway? This is not a recipe for peace, passion and play- competition is a recipe for continuing to fight over the same dang things again and again.
I remember when Chris and I used to have the same old weekly arguments about house hold chores, being on time and so on. They seemed so worth it at the time, but honestly, we just didn't have the right tools to eliminate these kinds of fights at the time.
But, as you fix your focus completely on the idea, that there is NO solution, until there is an ELEGANT, win-win solution- you will both begin to be more creative, insightful and collaborative- true teamwork is a very connecting experience.
2) Check Your Pride At The Door
Honestly, everyone behaves pridefully to some degree, this is part of the human condition.
Unfortunately, pride divides and attempts to conquer one another- and, simply put, pride is not at all useful if you want a sustainably loving, authentic, and deeply connected relationship that releases the fights you are sick and tired of having!
Fortunately, pride can be overcome. It does take awareness and discipline to systematically eliminate. But, when we decide to work to remove pride, the same old fights we used to have will dwindle bit by bit and the peace that remains and grows is loving and lovely.
As we begin to disassemble pride, we can begin to focus on noting tone of voice and body language. These undeniable physical manifestations of pride are sometimes easier to notice and own up to when relishing in the justification of pride becomes too strong a temptation and the words themselves, the story we are telling seem true to us Certainly, the words we choose are important, too and we will do well to modify behavior in both areas.
You might notice pride in the following ways:
Passive aggression (ie, ‘forgetting’ to pick something up at the store for your partner, not making a decision that was important and had a time stamp, etc.)
Sarcasm (never a good choice -- playing and sarcasm are not the same -- sarcasm has angry, passive aggressive undertones)
Meanness, bullying, arrogance
Abdicating responsibility or refusal to take ownership of your part (and you are always 50% responsible for any fight -- because you are participating!)
Fighting to win
Seeking fault in your partner
Keeping score (ie, bringing up ‘crime’ from the past to support a current argument)
Competing with your partner (ie, “I had a more stressful day”, “I do more around the house”, etc)
Do you happen to align with any of these pitfalls? If so, it’s ok! We all have negative relationship habits and the good news is they can be eliminated. Whenever a negative trait in ourselves is identified, it is truly a cause for celebration because it means that we just discovered a key that is going to unlock a door into greater peace, love, and harmony within our relationships and within our lives as a whole.
One of the easiest ways to interrupt pride is to:
Stop what you are doing, back up, turn around, leave the room, and breathe to let go… When you first begin to practice this technique, you may find you have to remove ourselves entirely from the situation. So you can gain the clarity and truth, that you partner doesn't always have to agree with you to be on solid ground together.
Otherwise, the seething payoffs of righteous indignation threaten to snatch us up, ring us out, and toss our good efforts aside.
Another thing to remember, no matter how prideful you feel or how much you want to lash out and blame your partner, But, whether it feels good in the moment or not, you are responsible for your staying in your own lane.
And, no matter the state of relationship we find ourselves in, pride only comes up, when and because, we want to feel connected, appreciated or validated. Pride is a defense mechanism put in place of true vulnerability. Understanding this can be incredibly helpful in allowing ourselves to release the grip of pride.
Pride is a way of silently and unconsciously saying, “I feel sad and hurt. And I want you to feel the hurt I do, so I’m going to be prideful (or critical, or defensive, or arrogant) to ensure that we are both miserable. Maybe if you feel miserable too you won't do XYZ again and we won't lose our connection again and this won’t happen again… Because, I don’t know another way other than pridefulness, I behave that way.”
But, what we want, more than anything, is to feel connected to one another, to feel a sense of true belonging together, to talk and to share, to feel the freedom to be vulnerable, and to relish in joyous physical, spiritual, and emotional intimacy.
This is what can emerge as we let go of sass, arrogance, right-fighting – what can happen when we let go of Pride.
3) Let Go Of Blame
On the heels of letting go of pride, releasing blame follows closely! Wanna know what is completely baller about a blame free marriage? It becomes a conflict free marriage!
In letting go of blame there lies a silent implication of simultaneously taking radical responsibility for oneself and one’s personal experience of life.
If I choose to look at what I’m able to shift, change, or do differently instead of looking for who or what I can blame for the circumstances that are happening that I am unhappy with, i.e. choosing to relinquish blame, I have gained a sense of personal power that leads to many wonderful things, including a conflict free partnership.
How does one let go of blame?
It is a truly magical tool, a gift, and a healing elixir!
Recontextualization means, stepping back and recontextualizing a situation so you can see it from a higher place of truth, and less from emotional overwhelm and negativity. And, this takes practice.
Begin by looking for facts as a journalist would. Eliminate the fluff and stick to what can be observed, verified, and measured.
Blame -- Road Rage: “That idiot cut me off!! He is obviously trying to kills us all! What is wrong with people”
Recontextualization -- Road Rage: “Wow, that person must be really distracted. I hope everything is ok in his/her life. I wonder if he has an ill family member and is trying to get to the hospital or maybe he had an argument with his spouse and is upset. I know what it’s like to be distracted when driving and it’s really no fun. Go in peace friend.”
Do you see how any situation, including 'the same old fights' can begin to dwindle away by reframing them?
Honestly, we never really know what is going on with others, even our partner often times. We make assumptions based on our own negativity, limiting beliefs, positionalities, opinions, critical views, and harsh judgments. This is true even with our spouse, whom we believe we know so well. The truth is, we are very often wrong.
There are hundreds of opportunities each day to apply blame, or to choose to recontextualize.
Now that you understand you always have a chance to choose differently, will you?
One choice sets us free while the other keeps us bound to upset, disconnection, fear and can even set us out down a path to breakup .
Now, I am not saying that removing blame is a total cure all, although it is close. You will also need to solve some habits that are negatively impacting the relationship. Things like inner anger and resentment, jealousy, or numbing habits like overspending (or over drinking, eating, working, pornography watching, etc -- anything can serve as an escape, actually, even over-thinking – which is the original gateway drug!), all in an effort to feel better and more alive.
They are all fools errands though aren’t they?
I should know. I spent decades immersed in every kind of negative food and relationship behavior possible! It didn’t solve anything- but it did encourage me to lash out and place blame onto others more often, especially my husband, because I was so upset with myself and my own actions.
That’s really the root of blame though, isn’t it? Our inner demons coming out to prey upon others. Even though we have more than enough justifications for blame, it’s sad and isolating. This is why, when we work to release blame with an open heart and willingness to learn, we are ARE faced with all kinds of ‘ah hah moments,’ more than a couple slices of WTF pie, and a whole host of ‘no way, this is BS and I had no idea ...!’ moments of illumination.
In the end, it is pure magic to take back your power, and anyone who walks this path can attest to it… To own your space with grace, inspiration, and love -- to stop blaming, is to be truly, emotionally free!
This gift is one of unimaginable, favorable consequences. And a gift I am beyond thankful to now be able to attest to personally, to live, and to know, deeply. And you can too!
4) Choose Love Over Drama & Chaos
It seems simple enough, right? To choose love instead of SAYING the thing you know will inevitably begin another fight…
To choose LOVE in the exact moment you are just itching to lash out, blame, to fight back, to retort the most perfect snark, or to proclaim an ‘I told you so!’ Whatever sass comes to mind can feel really, really, really, difficult to release... initially! And, I know we are all aware of the type of behavior to which I am referring because we have all tried to deny (instead of release) this behavior. We have tried to NOT have the same ‘ole fight again and again and again....
Thank you for trying so hard, truly. You are a Viking!
... We gotta have a strategy laid out ahead of time though. There are many possible strategies to support you in choosing love over digging your heels in to the grit and drama, but here is one really good one, and it’s a simple one. This very easy and straightforward acknowledgment and follow up question will get you started:
“Honey, I am beginning to feel super triggered -- I don’t want to go down this road. How can we collaborate and choose love instead?”
I refer to tools like this one as magical unicorns.
Because pride is always at play when there is a fight about to break out. Pride says, “I’m a spoiled brat and I want my way no matter what the cost” (I know, it sounds harsh and it can be difficult to own up to, but it is truth, nonetheless).
This statement and question is the healing elixir. Collaboration means together! "Let’s solve this. Let’s heal this. Let’s do this as a unified team!" is so very powerful.
And isn’t that what we are after, anyway? Love? Connection? Collaboration? Belonging?
I suppose the allure of feeling justified, right, or self-righteous can seem unbelievably tempting. I certainly remember that struggle! But, I am here to attest, sustained LOVE and unconditional connection is so much more juicy and deeply rewarding than any negative payoff received from continuing to participate in negative behavior patterns..
To invoke change and to implement new ways of behaving, you will need to practice weighing the options, being consciously aware that there is a choice to collaborate and therefore choose love over drama and chaos, OR to choose to engage in the fight with, now, full awareness of what the negative payoff actually is and if it is worth the dysfunction and disconnection.
I promise, you can choose love- it just takes some practice!
5) Get Help!
Ok, this might be a seen as a shameless marketing plug, but, seriously, get help! And know, not everyone teaches a conflict free model (or even believes in it!).
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have any great courses in high school or college or even grad school that taught me how to have an amazingly connected, passionate, vibrant, peaceful and conflict free relationship, did you?
Did you have amazing parental role models to teach you how to have a truly great relationship?
No? I didn’t either! So, give yourself a break!
And, in order to be successful with our efforts, we need to learn great tools. Think about it! We take lots of time to learn how to do the jobs we are doing. Maybe even spend four or more years of school and a boat load of cheddar to learn a skill set?
Yet, most think they should just ‘know how to have a happy marriage.’
This idea is super flawed. We all need help sometimes. My husband, and partner in business and adventure, and I didn’t get to where we are now in love, life, or business on our own. We have had lots of joyful and welcomed help and I wish the same success in relationship partnership for everyone who wants it, from business to the bedroom!
So, don't wait until your relationship is rocky, get help to remove the drama now!
Cheers to Reimagining Love!