Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


The Value of Fighting

Verbal “fighting” can actually be useful for a couple, to communicate their thoughts, needs, wants, and feelings.  It can also increase passion in the relationship by going through a heated debate then resolving it with great “make-up sex!”  But the most effective fights have to be packaged in such a way that the focus is more on WHAT you’re saying, rather than HOW you’re saying it.  Too often, the couple is caught up in the drama surrounding the fight, rather than the underlying problem.

Here are a few types of fighting styles that people have come in with that do NOT work.  Can you identify with any of these? 

The Drop & Runner
  • Avoids arguments until they build up into an explosion 
  • Yells about something then storms out of the room  
  • Won’t allow time for any response or reaction from the other person 
  • Tends to be uncomfortable with confrontation and intense emotion
The Snide Sniper  
  • Makes sarcastic remarks about their partner  
  • Gives back-handed compliments (i.e. “Ah, I see you finally made dinner.”)  
  • Tends to be passive-aggressive in other areas of their lives  
  • Can be verbally abusive
The Mousy Manipulator
  • Gives the “silent treatment” when angry and  uses facial expressions (i.e. dirty looks) instead of words  
  • Withholds sex and affection  
  • Uses guilt to get their partner to give in to what they want  
  • Involves others in the problem rather than facing the partner privately
The Lunge-Attacker
  • Says exactly what they feel at the time without any editing  
  • Has a low tolerance for frustration and ambiguity 
  • Mainly concerned about getting their own point across, rather than listening  
  • Unafraid of intense emotions (i.e. can be loud and dramatic)
So how do you fight fairly and constructively
so that it actually ENHANCES
rather than BREAKS DOWNyour relationship?  
Make these key changes and find out!

Timing is Everything
The best scenario for arguments is:
  • After you’ve had enough time to cool down (deep breaths help) 
  • When you have privacy (NOT in front of the kids or others) 
  • Have no distractions (cell phones, TV, and needy kids turned OFF) 
  • When you have enough time to allow both sides to express themselves

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Agree who will go first (flip a coin if you have to) and then take turns explaining what made you so hurt, angry, or frustrated.  Try to keep it to about 10 minutes so you don’t lose the other person’s attention.

  • Tell them how YOU feel and how the situation affected YOU, rather than using your time to attack what THEY did and how THEY responded. 
  •  Try to stay calm, but direct.  Look them in the eye, but soften your face as much as possible so they listen to your words and not get distracted by your body language. 
  •  Say “Next time, I wish you would…” to give them information about how they can respond differently if the situation arises again.
  • Listen not only with open ears but with an open heart.  The key here is to really try to understand their point of view and see the situation based on what you know about that person.  
  • Know their soft spots, or vulnerabilities.  Imagine yourself in their shoes, with their insecurities so you can better understand why they may have had such a strong reaction.
  • Calmly reflect back what you’ve just heard so they know you fully understand what they’ve said.  Repeat this until you get it right.

Seal the Deal YOUR Way
Anyone can shake hands, but if you have a special handshake with a friend, it means there’s a special bond between you.  Same goes for saying “I’m sorry.”  Anyone can say it, but if you have a unique ritual for the way you say (or imply) it, after the air has been cleared, it’ll mean so much more.  Here are some suggestions:
  • Close your eyes, put your hands on each others’ shoulders, and touch foreheads before saying you’re sorry. 
  • Hold a full-body hug for at least 1 minute (that’s a long time!) 
  • Leave a token of some kind, like a polished rock with a word like “Love” or “Heal” on it, or a flower, or a note in a place where they’ll find it. 
  • Use any phrases, pet names, songs, or goofy inside-joke things you guys might have to smile, laugh, and release the tension. 
  • Have make-up sex — thought I’d forgotten about that, huh? 😉
Arguing can bring out opposing energies (yin and yang) that can make our relationships juicier and more meaningful.  We are supposed to be different!  As Wayne Dyer said “If both of you are the same, then one of you is unnecessary!   So expect that you’ll have fights, but enter them consciously, with calm self expression, empathic listening, and a unique way to apologize for any harm that’s been done.  Making these 3 changes will lead to a stronger and deeper connection to each other.

1 Comment to The Value of Fighting

  1. CC's Gravatar CC
    October 25, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Apparently one fighting style isn't enough for me, i use them all…. Very insightful article!!

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