You've thought to yourself countless times, I'm just so sick of having this same damn argument about _____ (money, commitment, working too much, not being a priority, who does the house work, parenting, etc.)
If you are saying YES to this in your head, your relationship could be in real danger.
We've been told (by everyone: family, friends, movies, and the media) that fighting is a ‘normal’ part of marriage (partnership); that it’s "just a part of life", "you can't escape from fighting" or "you’ll be glad for the make-up sex"!
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… so that's myth number one! "Making-up" is actually about feeling connected, thus reconnecting, after that, sex resumes (of course there is a whole host of other issues that could be impacting your sex life as well!).
So, most couples don't "re-connect" with sex. Sex results when a couple is reconnected from an emotional stand point- which can take several days depending upon the magnitude of a particular conflict.
Thus, when couples practice staying connected, the idea of make up sex becomes obsolete.
I've had many clients who ‘argue’ that fighting is part of a healthy relationship.
It is NOT.
Aggression of any kind (which ALL fighting, conflict, frustration, anger, and irritation is) is not only taxing, and often devastating to a relationship over time, it gives way to increasing angst and resentments, and it wreaks havoc on the physical body and mind over time.
Healthy discussions where you challenge each other- lovingly- is different than arguments and conflict that set you up to have a "winner and a loser" and are hurtful.
So... another myth busted!
Fighting is harmful and therefore has no place in a loving marriage.
Learning to work out differences, learning to be accepting, learning to be increasingly collaborative, growing in love and willingness and courage as a couple- are ALL YESSES!
Fighting and conflict VS the above are choices. Whether conscious or unconscious, they are choices. You can choose not to participate in conflict, and to stop poking the bear to trigger your partner... Oh please! You know you do!
You can create a conflict free home...
But, it's a journey and requires a DEEP commitment for both parties.
And who wouldn't want to have a loving, safe, full of kindness home- conflict free home?
Roots Of Fighting
MOST fights are symptoms and personal projections!
Often times, couples don’t realize that they aren’t actually fighting about money, prioritizing family time, or who does what chores around the house, or takes the kids to their activities. A power struggle ensues because they cannot see the root of their pain, anger, or frustration.
Couples actually fight about not feeling connected, not feeling valued or appreciated, not being seen, or most likely a combination of these, and as a result of not being healed and happy on the inside.
And then, resentment hits hard when these pieces are lacking.
When we have a "bad" day, we tend take it out on the people closest to us. We feel bad and want to blame another person so we can shift the bad feelings away from ourselves. In the end, we've, almost strategically disrupting our loving connection.
We choose to lash out at the person we love.
Then our partner responds in kind-- often returning blame and attack.
This is a roller coaster fight/avoid/make-up cycle.
There are many levels of fighting and conflict ranging from infrequent to frequent snarky bickering, to shouting, to outright screaming, door slamming, and name calling. There is often one person who is great at arguing and the other partner who is better at shutting down. We tend to partner with our opposite, so our responses to conflict will often show up in different ways.
One couple I'm working with has been working to dissolve a type of repeating "fight-cycle"that goes like this:
He gets angry and attacks, using words that he know will sting deeply.
She gets triggered into a state of pain and severe anxiety.
She then in turn completely shuts down. Sometimes, becoming is so upset, she has a full on panic and vomits. Then takes to her bed, or mopes around until it all subsides.
He then feels ashamed of his behavior, but blames her and holds on to his resentments.
Then in a few hours to a few days, they brush it under the rug and move on- BUT don't actually resolve this patter...
This is a fairly extreme reaction to conflict, but her mind and body literally rejects it.
Obviously, the consequences of fighting vary.
Regardless, of what form the fighting takes, consequences are real and can be lasting to varying degrees. Here are a few consequences that fighting (aggression and anger) can take:
Trauma: For the mind, body, spirit to receive a situation as a trauma in the brain, a fight need not be as dramatic as you might think. Trauma is in the mind and heart and of the beholder. Often times, fights that don’t ‘seem’ to be a big deal can most certainly be perceived as traumatic. REMEMBER this when you are fighting for just for the sake of winning or getting your own way…
Emotional armor: When couples fight, the armor goes on. Couples don’t feel close, connected, caring or appreciative when they fight. Isn’t that the total opposite of what you want to experience?
Trigger emotional weapons: fighting triggers all kinds of additional emotional weapons- criticism, passive aggression, blame, defensiveness, name calling, shut down, pouting, eggshell dancing, yelling, and so much more.
Sadness, loneliness, guilt, pride and grief: These sad emotional states are unfortunate outcomes or even triggers for additional fighting. There is really no winning when these feelings are afoot.
Fear: Once patterns of fighting takes root in a relationship, couples become afraid. Afraid to re-connect, afraid to touch one another, afraid to even speak sometimes, afraid to mess up again or get 'in trouble', 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 personal emotional safety is essential for a lasting and JOYFUL relationship.
You now have a choice...
1) Accept fighting as a part of your life and choose to live with it and the consequences.
2) Make a firm commitment to get on a path to let go of fighting in your relationship, which requires deep healing and growth.
3 WAYS TO REDUCE OR ELIMINATE CONFLICT!
If you have chosen to path number 2, there are several paths one can take to reduce and eliminate conflict over time; or to eliminate conflict quite abruptly at times! Here are a few actions you can BEGIN TAKING TODAY!
1) Seek Win-Win With Validation
Validation is a way to accept your spouse for who they are, what they are feeling, and what their perception and experiences are. Acceptance is POWERFUL path toward unconditional love and holds the power to transform your relationship.
For example, you can respond to your partner with something as simple as:
"You make a good/interesting point."
"I can see how you might think that, thank you for sharing."
Remember, and opinion is just an opinion, there is no need to react to, or defend and fight to protect every single one, or any opinion for that matter!
2) Check Your Pride At The Door
What is the deal with pride, and why do we so insistent on being right? Right!
Pride is a real turd! I used to really struggle with pridefulness terribly!
No matter how seemingly big or small the issue, I used to fight, argue, stomp around, yell, shut down… whatever it took to be right, or gain compliance from my dear hubby (blush).
And because my darling Chris was such a peace lover, he would usually fold. This actually set us up for additional problems like, losing attraction toward him- which, for a time devastated our sex life (could say so much more, but I will save this for a live training I'm doing in a couple weeks!)
Everyone behaves pridefully (until you learn to heal this) to some degree because this is part of the human condition. Unfortunately, pride seeks ONLY TO divide and attempts to conquer. Division and control are not characteristics one is looking for when seeking a sustainably, loving, authentic and deeply connected relationship.
FORTUNATELY, pride can be overcome.
It does take awareness, discipline AND THE RIGHT TOOLS to systematically eliminate. When you decide to work to remove pride, the same old fights you are used to having will dwindle, bit by bit- and it IS so lovely.
As you begin to disassemble pride, you can focus on noting tone and body language, these are sometimes easier to notice when relishing in the justification of pride and trying to be right or win or push your partner to compliance. Certainly, you will want to note the words you use when behaving in prideful ways so that you can exchange them for loving, caring and connecting language.
Pride shows up 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?
It’s OK if you've answered yes!
Don’t be too hard on yourself. We all have negative relationship habits that can be removed!
One of the easiest ways to interrupt pride is to: STOP what you are doing, back up, turn around, leave the room, and BREATHE… At first you will almost have to remove yourself, otherwise the seething payoffs of righteous indignation will snatch you up, ring you out, and toss you aside!
Another thing to remember, no matter how prideful (or right) you feel or how much you want to lash out and blame your partner, YOU are responsible for your lane.
No matter what the state of your relationship, pride only comes up because we want to feel connected, worthy, valuable and lovable.
PRIDE is a defense mechanism.
Pride is a way to say, “I feel sad and hurt and I want you to feel the hurt like I do so I’m going to be prideful AF!
BUT, we really just want so, so much to feel connected, worthy, valuable and lovable - AND to feel a sense of belonging together.
Let Go OF Blame
And… on the heels of letting go of PRIDE, is releasing blame!
Do you know what is completely baller about a blame free marriage?
It becomes a conflict free marriage!
You see, when you let go of blame, you simultaneously take radical responsibility for yourself and YOUR experience of life.
How does one let go of blame?
It is a truly magical tool, gift and healing elixir!
Prideful stance: "That idiot cut me off, he's trying to kill me. I hope he gets a ticket." (or worse, "I hope he crashes his car.")
Recontextualized stance: "Wow that person is driving recklessly, I hope he is ok. Maybe his wife is in labor and he's trying like hell to make it in time."
Not enough help around the house (not pulling his weight):
Prideful stance: "He is so lazy (forgetful, etc.) He never helps. I guess he thinks my job is to just cater to his every whim. This pisses me off so much."
Recontextualized stance: "He has so much on his plate that it's difficult for him to be engaged at home. I bet we can collaborate to put better systems in place to make house work more equitable."
Are you seeing how the old fights begin to dwindle?
Now, I am not saying this is a total cure all.
You will need to solve other habits in the home that negatively impact one another. Things like inner anger and resentment, jealousy, over-spending (or over drinking, eating, working, ie- anything can serve as an escape, even over-thinking – which truly is the original gate-way drug!), all in an effort to feel better and more alive.
It’s a fools errand though isn’t it?
I should know, I spent decades immersed in every kind of negative food behavior possible! It didn’t solve anything- but it did encourage me to lash out more at others because I was so upset with myself and my own actions.
That’s really the root of blame though.
Our inner demons come out and prey on others. It’s sad and true. Which is why, when you work to release blame, you will be faced with all kinds of ‘ah has’, several slices of WTF pie, and a whole big pile of no way, this is BS!
But in the end, it's pure magic to take your power back… And to own your space with grace, inspiration, and love!
Next Level of Removing Conflict: Get Help!
Ok, it might be a shameless marketing plug- but seriously. GET help if you want to fast track a super boss marriage/relationship!
And know, not everyone teaches a conflict free model (nor 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, and definitely not growing up examples-- that taught me how to have and 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?! Me either!!
NOTE: Traditional couples counseling (85%of the time) is actually a great way to solidify separation and divorce. In fact, the Gottman Institute (foremost researchers on relationship success), says that 85% of couples who engage the traditional couples counseling/therapy will be divorced in 12 months or less. There are many reasons for this- (email me for details if you are interested).