If there’s constant tension in your relationship…
If innocent conversations erupt into slinging matches…
If you’ve ever thought “All we do is fight!”, then you’re in luck…
…because in this video we’re going to discover the 3 big mistakes couples make when fighting and 3 conflict resolution strategies for fighting fair.
In my relationship coaching practice, I’ve noticed that fighting couples almost always make ONE if not all THREE of these mistakes and end up in a heated argument that leads to doors slamming, icy silences and someone sleeping on the couch.
It happens to the best of us, but it can be avoided if you stop doing these 3 things:
MISTAKE #1: Fighting when triggered
Have you ever said something in the heat of the moment that you knew you shouldn’t say, but couldn’t stop yourself?
We do that because we’re triggered, we become stupid – literally.
When our brain perceives danger, it triggers the Amygdala and one of two responses ensue: fight or flight.
To help us escape or survive the fight, blood is redirected into our limbs so that we can run like hell away from the danger or fight for our lives. With all that blood flowing to our limbs, our brain is starved of oxygen. Without much oxygen up there, we are rendered quite literally stupid… which is why we say things that we later regret when we’re triggered.
HOW TO FIGHT FAIR: Never communicate when you’re triggered. Instead, take a break, go for a walk or journal your thoughts, and come back to the conversation when you have a brain again.
MISTAKE #2: Solving Problems
Imagine this: Your spouse is mad at you. You promised to take the trash out. You forgot – for the 5th time. Their tone of voice tells you, this conversation is going to end badly.
What do you do?
- Take the trash out?
- Apologize and offer to make it up to them?
- Tell them to stop nagging you and that you’ll do it later
- Start explaining why you were too busy to take the trash out
Which did you pick?
This is a trick question because if you picked any of these you’d probably be sleeping on opposite sides of the bed that night.
Because your partner is not really upset about the trash not being taken out.
They are upset about something far more important: what not taking the trash out means about the state of the emotional bond between you.
Allow me to explain…
If you probe deeper, you might uncover that your partner is afraid that if you’re not trustworthy with something as small as taking out the trash, how can you be trusted with the bigger things like fidelity, like raising the kids, like responsibly handling the finances… and they may not even be aware that this is what is going on for them.
If you try to solve the trash problem, you won’t get anywhere.
HOW TO FIGHT FAIR: Instead, ask your partner about their softer feelings beneath the surface and then soothe those feelings. You can learn more about how to do this in my next online marriage workshop.
MISTAKE #3: The Phantom Attack
Have you ever seen a toddler who has lost it’s parents in a supermarket?
The child screams as loud as it can to alert the parents of its location.
Either that or the child shuts down and withdraws into the safety of its inner sanctuary – too afraid to move.
Both of these tactics are unconscious survival strategies – protests against its parents moving out of safe proximity.
Here’s the thing most people don’t realize: As adults we use these same 2 strategies with our partners.
When we perceive that our partner has moved out of safe emotional proximity (i.e. when we perceive our emotional bond threatened in any way) we protest the disconnection in one of 2 ways…
We make a noise or we go quiet.
Without this awareness, when our partner gets upset and makes a noise (perhaps by yelling or becoming demanding) it’s easy to perceive that they are attacking us when they are not – hence the phantom attack.
On the other hand, when our partner goes quiet, it’s easy to perceive that they are punishing us when they aren’t.
They’re alerting you that they feel a threat to the emotional connection between you (protesting) – just like the toddler that lost its parents in the supermarket.
So if you react to their protest as you would to being attacked – defending yourself like your life is at stake, you’ll only escalate the conflict and hurt your already scared spouse.
They almost certainly won’t be consciously aware that they are protesting feeling disconnected, but now you will be.
And that’s one of the many benefits of romantic relationships – we can see things about each other that we are blind to and help each other grow.
HOW TO FIGHT FAIR: So remember… when your partner gets upset, they are protesting a lack of emotional connection.
Soothe them as you would a baby crying – not in a condescending way, but in a tender, loving way… something like:
“Honey, you seem really upset… I love you and I’m here to listen… Tell me what’s on your heart… Whatever it is, I love and accept you…”
Can you see how different that will go from: “Stop nagging me. I told you I’m going to take the trash out. What’s so important about taking the trash out anyway?”
Use the strategies I’ve suggested and let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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