Everyone knows that there is no intimacy without conflict; unless of course, you agree never to disagree. Then, you don't have a healthy relationship; you have codependency. In healthy relationships, neither party subjugates their feelings to please the other. Conflicts need to be externalized and resolved. Couples need to have rules to argue by. Here are ten fair fighting rules that I learned from John Bradshaw's book Bradshaw: On The Family:
- Be Assertive
Learn how to ask for what you need and express your feelings. Unless your partner hears from you what you are feeling and/or experiencing, s/he can never read your mind. It is important to express your truth even if it means hurting your loved one or making them angry. It takes courage to confront someone you love, but if you don't, nothing gets accomplished and your resentment grows, hurting both you and the relationship. If your partner can't handle your feelings, perhaps you don't belong with them or you need to be in couples therapy to help work them through with a professional counselor.
- Stay Present And In The Now
It is important to hear what your partner is saying and for him to be willing to hear you. Going back in history and collecting data to make your point of what is happening now, is not as effective as being specific about what just occurred. If today's problem is a recurring theme that you let swept under the carpet for fear of his response, then perhaps you can give him an account of several instances when this occurred, but from now on, stay in the moment with current issues. Collecting stamps and storing them up, often causes you to blow your top and come out acting like a shrew.
- Avoid Lecturing
Nothing turns someone off more than having you lecture them and force advice down their throat. Lecturing is a sure way for him or her to check out. It will surely remind them of their mother or father, depending who did the lecturing when they were being scolded as a child. Use the change model I wrote about in my other article or that you heard in the recent video. Remember lecturing is an invitation for a fight.
- Avoid Judgment
Guess what? Judgment is another sure way to invite a fight. Whenever you throw judgments around, it will spin right back to you. Judgments and criticism can be interpreted as shame, creating further distance between you. Remember to stay in the I (change model). Use self-responsible statements.
- Honesty And Accuracy
Nothing works better than being honest. Changing the facts to massage your point, exaggerating to make a point, or stretching the story only creates a stronger defense from the other side. Remember, the brain does three things with information and perception: It distorts information, it deletes information and it generalizes. It is very important to be as accurate and honest as you can. Three people can see an accident and all three can report it differently. This is because we all wear different filters when we perceive. Try hard to be rigorously honest. It's your best bet.
- Don't Argue About Details
Another sure way to lose his or her interest is to detail them to death. Dudes, especially, want the bottom line. Just make it brief and to the point. If he needs more information, he will ask for it. If you repeat the same things over and over, add insignificant details to magnify the case, you will lose your them to something that interests them more. Sometimes less is more!
- Don't Assign Blame
When you make your partner at fault, they will find a reason to make you at fault. However, if you use the change model, you will avoid blaming. Remember, it's not a blame game. Unless he abuses you, ignores you, or is MIA, don't blame. If he does any of the ones mentioned in my previous sentence, leave him!
- Use Active Listening
This is a biggy! It's real easy to unload a ton of shit on your partner; it's harder to listen. And listen with a third ear. That takes practice. For instance, most women want to jump in and battle with their tongues. If they learned to listen, they may have been surprised. Their partner may have said something they might have missed by jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Good listening is at least 50 percent of communication. Sometimes it's not what you say, it's what you hear.
- Fight About One Thing At A Time
Many people have the bad habit of leashing out a laundry list when they argue. Remember, the goal is to stay with one thing at a time. If you present your partner with a list of character defects and instances that occurred last year, or maybe 5 or 10 years ago, they will either become defensive or check out. Many women carry a gunnysack with them when they fight and stack up evidence that includes every infraction that occurred in their entire relationship. This is never fodder for resolution.
- Hang In There: Go For A Solution Rather than Being "Right"
There's an old expression: Would you rather be right or happy? Staying in there battling it out with effective fair fighting tools will be your best ticket to intimacy. Sure you will have differences, but who doesn't? Communication begins with discussion; not sex. Sex will not resolve your issues. Sex can be more exciting after the fight, but only with resolution. Many couples use sex as a distraction to discussion; not a resolution. Use your tools to fight fair, and your sex life will improve!
More effective communication advice on YourTango:
- Say What?: Effective Communication For Your Love Life
- The Key To Effective Communication
- Online Dating Tips For Single Men