Two people in love living under one roof. What could be easier one would think.
But it’s not.
It is like a collision of two worlds: different upbringings, sets of beliefs, various habits and sometimes even contrasting world views.
Sometimes that collision gets intense. That’s what we call fighting.
Our first argument happened in a supermarket. I said to Justin that there was no almond milk in the fridge. He had to double-check. That was it.
After somehow turning this situation into an argument, and letting steam to cool down, we laughed. “That’s was a fight over nothing, imagine what our real fights would look like..” The joke was on us. We truly didn’t handle that part of our relationship well. Let’s just say there were some flying objects in our home. From a wall covered in few custard apples, a smashed phone and a broken chair, to I believe few really bothered neighbours, the effects of our fights were easily observed.
We both did not speak up in our past relationships. We both held it to ourselves and became resentful. So being together we finally were very vocal and open if something did not feel right. We also had huge insecurities and we terrified of being hurt again. We noticed that once we pass a certain point of escalating the argument, we couldn’t stop. You might as well just get popcorn and watch the show.
Fighting was our weakness and we were seeking Grace and help.
The differences and disagreements don’t hurt as much as the ways in which we communicate them. Ideally an argument does not have to be hurtful; instead it can simply be an engaging conversation that expresses our differences and disagreements. (Inevitably all couples will have differences and disagree at times.) But practically speaking most couples start out arguing about one thing and, within five minutes, are arguing about the way they are arguing. Unknowingly they begin hurting each other; what could have been an innocent argument, easily resolved with mutual understanding and an acceptance of differences, escalates into a battle. They refuse to accept or understand the content of their partner’s point of view because of the way they are being approached. Resolving an argument requires extending or stretching our point of view to include and integrate another point of view. To make this stretch we need to feel appreciated and respected. If our partner’s attitude is unloving, our self-esteem can actually be wounded by taking on their point of view.
― John Gray, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: Practical Guide for Improving Communication
We could relate to this quote. A lot.
Many books, web searches and loads of digging later, here are few tips that were the result of it:
1.Fight against the problem, not each other.
We tend to think that our partner wants to hurt us on purpose. We so often become adversaries instead of partners. What if we focus on the problem instead and choose to stay on the same team? That would require knowing each other’s hearts. It requires compassion. Understanding of the inner world of our partner.
2.Catch emotions early on.
Yes, before you face the reality of cleaning up custard apples from a wall – highly not recommended, by the way, it’s a mission to clean – find ways that help you to diffuse the argument.
One of you must be on guard and say time out. One of you at least needs to hit the breaks before the train goes off the cliff. Best way to talk about that when you are not arguing (link to Code of Conduct). Each of you can come up with phrases or actions that could be like a time out sign. Taking a deep breath, asking to walk away to cool down, asking to pray together, using a code word or a phrase that you learnt by heart, making a sound when you are hurt and cannot pronounce anything else. Find what works. Find what you can sustain. Commit to it.
3.Break the arguments down after.
Like a coach after a game discussing with players their performance, you can do the same after the fight. How did you take what I said? What emotions came up for you? Why did you get upset? What can we do next time? What can we put in place that it will not happen? Seek understanding. Make your fights productive.
4.Set up ground rules.
What is a no go zone for you in the arguments? What would you never want to happen in your couple? Hanging up the phones, not picking up the phone on purpose, name-calling, swearing at each other, bringing up breaking up or divorce were among our “no-go list”. Words are powerful. Actions are too. We better handle our partners with care.
5.Have compassion for your partner’s inner world.
I know you didn’t mean to be disrespectful or unloving, but how did it come across to your partner? Can you see from his/her point of view? Can you learn more about what is going on inside your partner? Can you become good at reading his/her body language and emotions? Become a detective. That investment of time and energy on studying your partner will pay off tenfold. When we feel understood and known, we feel loved. Keep in mind that they say hurtful things not because they don’t care, but because they are hurting too because they don’t know how to deal with their emotions. We all are just trying to protect ourselves from feeling hurt.
6.Have a vision of how you would like your disagreements to look like and help each other to get there.
Have you ever thought “why can’t he/she just do/say that..or be like that… when …”? Have you ever said that to your partner? It’s fascinating
Alison Armstrong (a highly recommended author specializing in creating outstanding partnerships and understanding differences and uniqueness of men and women) said she teaches an incredible technique to her students on how to get what they need from their partner. It’s called “Ask them”.
Truly how often we wish our partner was acting differently that will lead us to be calmer and feel more loved, but we don’t tell them. Or if we do, it is in a complaint form. Work towards the vision of peace, mutual respect and understanding.
7.Keep unity as a priority.
Aim to resolve any arguments and repair any damage. Keep the big picture. In 5 years will that issue matter?
Fear of loss yourself. Remind yourself what’s more important. Remind yourself of your love for each other. This too shall pass.
We can say we are getting much better. The only thing though our neighbour next door is selling his house. I hope we didn’t contribute to his decision☺️