How to Fight in Your Relationship | Counseling | Therapy

How to Fight in Your Relationship

Couples often come to a couple’s therapist because the way they fight is no longer working for them. It is clear that they need to get out of their current fight pattern. They often have a laundry list of all the things they want to stop doing, but no idea how to replace their old habits with healthier behaviors. This tip will help you learn a better fighting style. Think back to your basic kindergarten level, rule making and guidelines for learning how to treat people.

Set the Stage

You may be at the point where every conversation regarding a certain problem you two are having, starts a fight. It no longer surprises you that this problem is a major issue in your relationship. You’ve been through it before over and over again without solving it. So now you may as well set up a date and time to really hash it out. Make sure you set aside enough time so you do not feel pressure to pause the fight and fake it at some social engagement or get too tired to continue. Make sure you are both well fed, thirsted, and got enough sleep. No one can fight well without their basic hunger, thirst, or sleep needs having been met.

For advanced couples really looking for growth, consider video taping this fight date. Your memory of how fights go between you two may be very clouded by the feelings you felt in that moment. Having a video is a way to develop more self awareness of how you react while fighting. This helps you hold yourself accountable. Make sure to pay attention to your fighting style only looking for how you can improve yourself not what your partner did wrong. You cannot change your partner. Take a week away from date 1 following the next steps before reviewing it in another date.

Ground Rules

Come up with ground rules for you fight/date together.

Essentials for successful arguments:

  • Speak honestly from your own point of view
    • Start your sentences with I instead of You
  • Do not make assumptions
    • Mind reading is not helpful
  • Stick to the present moment
    • Bringing up the past puts people on the defense due to feeling attacked
    • Puts you back in the mindset of the old instead of in the current stage you are in
  • No name calling
  • Use positive language
  • Try to be respectful of the other person’s perspective. They are doing this game with you because they want to get closer

Choose a Referee noise

If you have ever played the card game Taboo, there is a buzzer included that the judge is to push whenever one of the words you cannot say is said.

Whenever one of the rules for your argument is broken, either one of you can make the sound or the time out word chosen. When the sound is made, the person who broke a rule must take a deep breath and start their statement over. Know that you will both make mistakes, you are learning a new way to fight! Have fun with the noise to interrupt the old patterns and ground yourselves in the commitment to working on this argument together with the rules you decided earlier. Do not take advantage of the noise or it will lose its value. You cannot use it just because you don’t like what your partner was saying. It is only for calling attention to the rules for how you two decided your argument should go. It’s likely that some of what your partner is saying will be hard to hear or you may feel you have heard it all before. Brace yourself to hear difficult things that will lead to growth in your relationship once you start fighting fair.

Take turns

If you are caught in the trap of both people yelling at each other and neither one of you is feeling heard, you must find a way to take turns. Some people need a talking stick or something to symbolize who has the floor. If you are runners, think of passing the baton in a relay race. If you find it hard to give your partner full listening attention, grab a sheet of paper and write out your thoughts and feelings that are bringing you out of the listening role.

After each person’s turn, summarize what you heard them say to be sure you understood their point of view.

Validate Your Partner

Try to imagine yourself in your partner’s shoes and express how you would feel if you were them WITHOUT adding a but clause to defend your own point of view. Your chance is next. Make sure you got all your partner was trying to say and how they felt and why it makes sense to you that they feel the way they do about the issue. Once the person speaking feels their partner summarized and validated the message of the argument they were trying to send, they can take the baton and speak from their point of view and repeat the steps above.

Brainstorm 3 Solutions

Work together to think of ideas for solving the problem at hand. Once you have an exhaustive list, each of you must make a commitment to an individual goal from the solution ideas and 1 shared solution together. You are responsible for holding yourself to your own solution. Bringing up your partner’s mistakes for not doing their part or waiting to see them do it first is contributing to the stale mate you two are currently in. Of course, some perpetual problems are too big to handle with only 3 solutions, but start there. Once the first 3 become more habitual, set more fight dates to keep deconstructing the perpetual problem. Be patient with each other and know you are changing a fighting style that has been around a long time. It may be so complicated that it takes a few weeks or months of fight dates to push through to the solutions that work for you two.

Focus on the Positive

However small, make yourself point out the positive steps you have seen your partner make towards their chosen solution. Really go with the kindergarten rulebook and buy stickers to put up on the calendar of the attempts towards your solutions. Most people are tempted to throw out a compliment and disqualify it with more of the ways they are still not living up to what you want them to do. Notice here is another place where the word BUT changes the entire meaning of any praise you have given them.

Set a new date to discuss where you got stuck and try to brainstorm different ground rules or solutions. If you chose to videotape your date, take that week off and then review it in your second fight date. Focus on yourself and what you hear yourself saying and identify ways to rewrite this fight to convey your message in a clearer way. If these fight dates continue to ignite the old fighting pattern, you may benefit from having someone moderate your discussions!

Healthy couples find a way to have new fights and bring themselves out of the repetitive problem before it breeds resentment towards the other person. If you are past the point of resetting the rules of your arguments, you may benefit from a couple’s session. To locate a marriage counselor near me call 215 922 5683 x 100 and speak to a marriage counselor at The Center For Growth.

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