#185 - Do you know how to fight for your relationship?

Do you know how to argue effectively? I’m not talking about shouting and screaming at each other or arguing to win your point. I’m talking about arguing so you don’t destroy your relationship. Most of us have never learned how to fight in and for a relationship. We always see an argument as being combative, one against the other rather than working for a solution to make the relationship stronger.

We all have relationships that are difficult, to say the least. For me, my most difficult relationships have been with family. My dad and I rarely saw eye to eye on anything. My sister and I are pretty much the same way. Both my dad and sister seem to instinctively know how to push the right buttons that would set me off. Serious conversations would escalate into full blown arguments and everyone was upset, no one got what they really wanted, and our dysfunctional relationships became even more dysfunctional.

With that said, I could certainly push the right buttons for them also.

So, how do you “fight nice?”
The first thing to do is to figure out why you’re getting angry our upset with your mate. Is it their actions (or inactions) that is the trigger or is it something deeper than that? In most cases we have triggers; certain words, actions, reactions, responses that trigger an emotional reaction in us.

Let me share a personal example with you to illustrate the point. I was in a relationship with a woman several years after my divorce. She and I were sharing a nice evening at her home. Her home had an open floor plan so the kitchen, dining area and living room were all connected. In essence it was one big room. We were having a good casual conversation, I was in the kitchen and she was on the couch watching TV with her back to me. There was a pause in the conversation and I walked out of the room for a minute.

The reaction
While I was out of the room I could hear her talking but couldn’t understand a word she was saying. I immediately felt anger and frustration building up in me. Why? Because it’s nearly impossible to hold a conversation when it’s being held in two separate rooms.

The trigger
This is an issue that my ex-wife and I were never able to resolve in spite of many discussions about not being able to understand what she was saying when I wasn’t in the same room. She refused to acknowledge or accept that fact and would continue to talk regardless of whether I was in the room or not. It got to the point that I would just ignore the conversation out of frustration.

The solution
As I walked back into the living room, I asked my lady friend to stop talking. I explained that I was extremely upset, but not with her. Fortunately I was able to quickly identify what triggered my frustration and anger and was able to share with her the cause. I was able to explain why I was upset and we were able to quickly resolve the issue without me starting a major argument. It was MY problem…not hers!

There are several ways of dealing with difficult situations. You can walk away in frustration. You can get angry and upset that your partner isn’t listening or respecting you. Or, you can calm down and rationally talk things out. You don’t always have to agree, but you should at least learn to talk things out calmly to a mutually agreeable solution.

You first have to recognize what upsets you and makes you angry. What actions or inactions by your partner are triggering your upset? Then you have to determine why this bothers you.

Own your emotions
Next, you have to own not only your anger, but all of your emotions. When you do, you’ll recognize that they are your feelings and emotions…no one else’s. As you all hopefully know, only you control your emotions. If you don’t understand this, now is the time to grasp this concept.

Have you ever noticed that the more emotional you are, the less rational you become? Never, never, never try to have a calm rational conversation when your emotions are running high. It won’t happen! Whenever you are angry, fearful, or filled with any negative emotion you are in a fight or flight mode. It’s biological. So, in order to be able to discuss things logically and calmly, you have to wait until your emotions have settled down and you can think straight again.

Before you unleash your anger on your mate, you need be able to start figuring out what it is that is bothering you. Is it really the actions of your mate that are causing your emotions or is it your reaction to some past unresolved issues that causes you to get upset?

When you address a situation, wait until you are calm and rational. Be crystal clear on the points you are trying to make. Make sure you are clear that it is your problem you’re working on and trying to resolve.

Never start the conversation with “You”, always start with “I”. When you start with “You”, you’re starting out by being confrontational and accusatory. This will escalate the argument quickly. No one likes to be accused of doing anything wrong and this will cause the other person to become defensive. The outcome is usually not good.

When you start with “I” the responsibility falls back on you. For example; “Tom, can we talk? I’ve been feeling upset lately when you do XYZ.”  This way you share your emotions without placing blame on Tom.

Think back to your most recent arguments. How did they turn out? Did each of you walk away satisfied that the issue was resolved or did you each say things that were hurtful and can’t be taken back and nothing was resolved?

Recognize that you’re dealing with your emotions. You have control of them. Not every conversation will go as you planned out in your head. Odds are that your mate will push back when you change your approach to whatever situation you’re dealing with. They are used to your existing pattern of arguing. Depending on the situation, they may be happy the way things are right now and see no need to change.

When this happens, calmly restate that this is your issue that you’re working on. Get their input and advice on how to correct it. They are much more likely to be helpful and cooperative if they see themselves as part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem.