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“All We Do Is Fight!” – 3 BIG Mistakes YOU Make When Fighting

By Bruce Muzik in Conflict.

If there's a 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.

Man sleeping on couch

In my relationship coaching practice, I've noticed that fighting couples almost always make ONE (if not all three) of these mistakes.

The couple then ends 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 saying it?

Me too.

We say dumb things when we're triggered because when we're triggered, we become stupid - literally. Here's why:

When our brain perceives danger, it triggers the Amygdala and one of two responses ususally ensue: fight or flight.

The Amygdala

To help us escape or survive the fight, blood (and oxygen) is redirected into our limbs so that we can run away from the danger or fight for our lives.

With all that blood flowing to our limbs, our brain is starved of oxygen. Without as much oxygen up there, we are rendered quite literally stupid, which is why we say dumb things that we later regret.

How To Fight Fair And Smart

If you only remember one thing from this article, remember this: 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 your brain is functioning 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?

  1. Take the trash out?
  2. Apologize and offer to make it up to them?
  3. Tell them to stop nagging you and that you’ll do it later?
  4. 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.

Why?

Because your partner is not really upset about the trash not being taken out, even though it appears that they are.

They are upset about something far more important: what not taking the trash out means about the state of the emotional bond between you.

Stick with me here.

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.

So, if you try to solve the trash problem, you won’t get anywhere.

How To Fight Fair And Smart

Instead, ask your partner about their more vulnerable soft feelings  and then soothe or reassure them.

You can learn more about how to do this in my next online relationship repair workshop.

MISTAKE #3: THE PHANTOM ATTACK

Have you ever seen a toddler who lost its parents in a supermarket?

The child screams as loud as it can to alert the parents of its location.

Crying baby

Either that or the child shuts down and freezes – 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 two 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 two ways…

  1. We make a noise, or... 
  2. We go quiet.

Without understanding this, it’s easy to mistake our partner's protest for an attack – hence the term "phantom attack."

Baby is sad

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 (e.g. 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're protesting feeling disconnected. At least now you'll know what is going on and be able to address the real issue - the loss of emotional safety.

How To Fight Fair And Smart

So remember... When your partner gets upset with you, 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 because you're important to me… 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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If your relationship feels like a stretched rubber band about to snap, check out the online relationship repair program.

You’ll fix your relationship or marriage problems in 7 weeks or less.

About The Author

Bruce Muzik is a relationship repair expert and the founder of Love At First Fight. 

He specializes in repairing relationship conflict and helps couples to stop struggling and be happy together.

He has a hit TEDx talk and a reputation as the guy couples therapists refer their toughest clients to. Learn more about Bruce.

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