Flipping through an old Cosmopolitan magazine the other day, I was drawn to the title of an article called “Bacon Sex.” You might think it was the Sex that drew me, but really it was the Bacon. I am shamelessly addicted to bacon, and the thought of combining bacon with another thing I adore was intriguing.
The Bacon, in this case, referred to Kevin Bacon, the actor. And yes, I was disappointed when I realized that. Cosmo had asked him the secret to his long and lusty marriage. His answer was short, sweet, and dead-on: “keep the fights clean and the sex dirty.” It’s worked for them for twenty three years, despite being under intense scrutiny by the media over the years.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to fight cleanly. What is a clean fight, anyways? It’s certainly not the way many couples fight. Here are five ways to keep your fights clean.
- Fight about the thing that’s bothering you in the moment rather than digging up the skeletons of past arguments. You may not have done this before, but starting today, commit to keeping your fights in the present moment. Bury the hatchet of past arguments, or at least put it on a shelf until you can get clear on point #2.
- Take the time to get clear inside on why you’re really upset. Make your points and state your case using “I” statements and feeling statements rather than casting blame and judgments. Think about it: how do you feel when someone’s judging you? It’s a natural reaction to resist and defend yourself when you’re feeling judged. If you’re busy trying to defend yourself, you can’t hear what the other person is saying.
- Listen to what your partner has to say. Don’t just spend their talking time trying to formulate your next argument. Engage in active listening, which means that you listen to what your partner says, then you repeat or paraphrase back what you think you heard him say. He will then either agree that you heard him correctly or he’ll clarify what you didn’t understand. You don’t get to move on to your response until you are clear about what he said first. Obviously, he has to agree to do the same for you.
- Watch your body language. If you really want to keep your fights clean, you have to be open to your partner’s point of view. Maintain eye contact, face your partner, and refrain from crossing your arms across your chest. Try to keep your breath even and deep, it will help you stay relaxed.
- Clean up after yourself. Make sure that you and your partner have the same understanding about the resolution to the fight. You might say, “What I heard you say is…” And then you have to honor your part of the resolution and keep to your agreement. If an apology is in order, be a big enough person to give one.
Keeping the sex dirty is about being willing to stretch to the edge of, and perhaps a little beyond, your comfort zone. For one person, that might mean having sex in any position other than missionary, while for another it could mean using handcuffs, a blindfold and a whip. The degree doesn’t matter; it’s playing on the edge that counts.