Emotional grown-ups don't fight. Kids and needy adults fight. Which are you?
Fighting is what kids do. They do it because they are trying to establish boundaries, power and a sense of who they are. They have no skills and they react to life in a sometimes aggressive or defensive way. They are fighting for space, control, respect and autonomy. That's how we know they are not yet grown-ups!
Those we consider to be adults are grown-up because they are fully-developed and mature. Many adults I see are neither (especially those who play power games on the freeway, but that's another article). Their bodies may be mature, but the rest? Not so much! They are doing just what kids do: fighting, both within themselves and with others at home and at work. All they want is respect, but they have not yet learned what it is, where it begins, how it is acquired and how important it is to be the one who "goes first".
When I'm working with couples, they are often exhausted from fighting. They arrive in my office or on the telephone at the ends of their tethers, holding on by a thread. And that last remaining thread usually is: "If only he/she would just…" That might sound familiar: Do you ever use that phrase when complaining about your partner? However, aside from outright abuse, it is likely the basis for the relationship going south. Why? Because, surprisingly and frustratingly, it's not about the other person. It's about you. (I know; how annoying is that)?
You're right — it's not working for you. And, it won't work for you unless you start acting like an adult. Grown-ups look within themselves. Their first consideration is not who to blame or shame. They are not looking to blame or shame themselves, either. This is the real key.
What's more, real grown-ups don't fight. The dictionary explains that to fight is to try to overcome another person in a hostile encounter. Deep down, you know that means of communication doesn't work, because it keeps happening. Sometimes folks just fight until one person gets tired and goes away. Others fight until someone gets hurt. Neither of these tactics produce the outcome you want. So, clearly fighting accomplishes nothing except as a way to get rid of a lot of pent-up anger and adrenaline. When those are released, you feel better for a tiny while... before you feel worse. It simply doesn't work. So, what works? Read on to learn the three things that are required in order to sow peace, respect and understanding — all concepts, as it happens, you try to instill in your children:
- Aligning our values, vision, beliefs and purpose with who we are and how we behave in the world.
- Clarifying, expressing and maintaining strong boundaries.
- Well-developed skills that allow communication that is totally honest and kind at the same time.
These steps are about you, not the other person. You have to go first. You have to do your work. You have to give yourself the time and the attention that allows you to become a grown-up. Then, and only then, are you ready for relationships. You will probably have to juggle learning these things while navigating the relationships you have already cultivated. Most of us cannot take a chunk of time out to only do our own work but that is okay — you will get the hang of it. Be communicative about your needs and struggles with your partner.
And, best of all, the journey to becoming a fully-functioning, fully-expressing grown-up is absolutely worth it. You'll never have to fight again!
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