Fighting Fair I: Civil Dialogue

Fighting Fair. I’ve heard this term bandied about quite a bit: magazine articles, marriage counselors, relationship self-helps, and during a number of relationship discussions with friends. It’s odd though. I never used to hear it used in connection to adult behavior. It used to be a concept taught to kids by teachers and parents alike.

At least, because of its history, it’s an idea most of us should be comfortable with; if only because of its familiarity. When it comes to our relationships, do we still have to be reminded, taught, even, once again about the notion of fighting fair?

Unfortunately, it seems that we do, and it’s not so straight forward as it was when we were kids. Soon after hooking up, it’s almost inevitable that we begin to develop our own (not fair) patterns of fighting. Conscious or not, it becomes an oft repeated, finely honed strategy. And left to thrive, after years, we can find that our arguments are never resolved, and resentment flourishes.

Here are some (perhaps recognizable??) tactics:
1. The Blame Strategy: “If you didn’t yell (orwhineornagorbullyorstompetc), then I wouldn’t have to yell (orwhineornagorbullyorstompetc – or give you the silent treatment).”
2. The Take-The-Extreme Strategy: “You always do this (or that). You never listen to anything I have to say!”
3. The Defensive Strategy: “I did not mean that! I only meant this innocent thing….” (when you know damn well the other nailed what you meant). This can also be called The Disingenuous Strategy.
4. The Old Crap Strategy: “Do you remember last year when you called me a cheat? And now you have the gall, after all this, to say that? I will never forgive you for that. It cut me to the core!”
5. The NO Strategy: Before your partner even has the chance to get his idea completely out, you say, “No, honey, that just won’t work. I mean, are you crazy (scoff)? We don’t have the time or money to do something like that.”
6. Etcetra

So. Perhaps we didn’t learn our lesson. But we can. We absolutely do not have to keep fighting unfairly.

My strategy of choice is number five. I would cut Steve off, hook, line and sinker when he would start to dream too big. I even had a defense (some of number three). I mean, I’m the practical one in the relationship; it’s my job to rein him in, to keep him in check.

Bullshit. Plain and simple Bullshit. My job as his partner, as I have come to see it, is to help Steve with his dreams, to support him in finding ways (and they can be practical) to make his big plans bear fruit.

Anyway, what would happen is that Steve would start to say something that I would perceive to be over-the-top, and I would start in on my nay-saying. It would piss him off, naturally, not to be heard and to be discounted out of hand. So, he would push harder. I would say no in many different ways, trying hard to convince him of my rationality. Tension would build and soon we are arguing instead of discussing.

Now, if I would just shut up and listen to him, and discuss ways to make it work, we would probably have a fun time figuring out these big dreams of his. Really, half the stuff is never carried out (but its fun to talk about just the same), and the ideas that are carried out take time and effort and a lot more discussion. Time during which each of my concerns can be heard, too. If I just listen and have patience. Fortunately, I am learning and have started to do this.

And oh, boy, the benefits! For instance, you should see the beautiful (huge) deck and patio we built last year thanks to his vision. If I had had my way, it would be half of what it is. Working together, we did find ways to cut costs (family labor, for one…) and modify the plan to be able to do it.

Fighting Fair….mmmmm….maybe what we should start with is “Civil Dialogue”. Yeah, yeah, we need the fighting fair stuff too, because no matter how nice/respectful/kind/civil we are to each other, something will come up that will turn into a fight. But I wholeheartedly believe that our ingrained strategies actually get us into the fight. If we toss ‘em out the window and start some Civil Dialogue, maybe we can toss the fighting out, too.

Good thing this is part one in a series of….I haven’t decided yet. It’s a big topic. I thought that before-the-fight (avoid-the-fight) was a good place to start. In the next few blogs, I’ll take a closer look at some of the other strategies (including Steve’s fave #3..…is this the favorite of most men?).

This is really complicated stuff; if only it was something like, well, ah….when you are mad, don’t push the person you are fighting with, it’s not fair. That would be easy to figure out. Oh, to be a child again.

This concludes another view from my married life.