Communication, Not Fighting
" When you fight, you use your energy for recrimination and abuse, not communication "What do you do when conflicts arise? In professional and social situations, most of us control ourselves. However, with our partners there is no such thing. It is a paradox. You are close to your spouse, and therefore feel less inhibited by social norms. Unfortunately, this also means that when you disagree vehemently, you sometimes say and do things that would be unacceptable with anyone else. These things can destroy your relationship. Perhaps not as fast as infidelity, but gradually, leaching the joy out of your time with your partner. Fighting makes anger habitual and yelling a standard practice. When you fight, you use your energy for recrimination and abuse, rather than real communication that could strengthen the ties between you.
So why do we do it?
Homilies aside, there is a reason we cannot control ourselves and just go for the jugular. Brenda Shoshanna, author of The Anger Diet, says that for some couples, fighting or arguing violently is what bonds them. Now, you may say that is a good thing, but substance abuse and domestic violence also bond people. Not everything that connects you to your mate is good. It is essential that you analyze this aspect of your relationship before saying, "but we just fight, it doesn't mean anything/ it's a sign of affection." The other reason couples fight is more complex: ego and pride. Some people, even when they are part of a duo, need to assert their individuality. Often fighting, or having the last word, are ways of doing so. The only way out of this is by training yourself to develop your ego and pride as a couple.
What's the problem?
Fights, rather than communication, often result from not identifying the problem. When you confuse surface irritations with deeper issues or vice versa, and when you project your own frustrations, problems, and guilt onto your partner's actions, the result is crossed wires. Both of you are arguing about different things. It helps to ask yourself and your partner quietly and without rancour to first simply list the troubles.
Are you a soothsayer?
You cannot truly communicate if, in your own head, you have already carried the argument or fight out - both sides of it. As difficult as it is, try not to second-guess your partner or predict which way a discussion will go. Don't allow yourself to get carried away by mentally playing out an unpleasant situation to its "logical conclusion." Most of the time, this makes you go in with guns blazing and smoke coming out of your ears, rather than with the calm, open attitude that solves problems.
Whose fault is it?
Blame is like guilt. You can feel virtuous about dishing it out and sucking it up, but it is ultimately unproductive. It eats away at a relationship. If apportioning blame, rather than growth and understanding becomes the ultimate goal of any conflict, then you might as well say sayonara to your partner.
How do you feel?
Frame your concerns in personal terms. Don't just say that something is "stupid" or "bad," or that the other person "made me feel bad." Take ownership of your emotions and let your partner know the impact of their behavior on you. Say: "When you _______, it makes me feel ________." This makes your concerns easier to handle.
Are you done yet?
Perhaps your partner is not as articulate as you are, or has not worked things out. So give them time, and listen. Try not to interrupt, or express annoyance at their slowness. Instead, ask questions to get them going.
You want a piece of me?
Issuing fake challenges ("just try to stop me") or empty threats ("you do that, and I walk out the door") does not help communication. If you must show your partner how strong you are, do so by being the stable, rational one in the discussion.
Why do you always do this?
Avoid generalizations. They are untrue and obscure the details of the current situation. No one is always that dumb, slow, or ill tempered. Generalizations allow you to believe a skewed assessment of your relationship, which in turn makes communication impossible.
Come on, lighten up
It never hurts to crack a joke, no matter how lame. This does not mean that you should make the discussion into a joke. Nevertheless, it helps to use humor judiciously to lighten the situation and find something that you can share - a laugh.