How To Have A Good Fight
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Welcome to another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. Today I want to talk to you about how to have a good fight.
Fighting is an important part of a relationship.
Couples that fight are more likely to stay together long term. It’s our chance to get our feelings out, all the things that we normally push to the corner and think that aren’t such a big deal. This dismissal decreases our intimacy with our partner. Fights give us a chance to put that all on the table, work it through and come to a new place of connection and intimacy.
Step 1: Fight Fair
The first step is to fight fair. Obvious, but what do you do when you find yourself fighting mean? What do you do when you find yourself being insulting or threatening to end the relationship? Both of which cause too much reactivity in your partner and therefore stop the fight from being effective.
When you find yourself reaching that level, there’s obviously a need to calm down, but how do we do that? The easiest way is to take a break. Just tell your partner, “I need to take a break. I’m getting too triggered. I’ll be back in twenty minutes.” Tell them how long because if you just close the door in their face and abandon them, they’ll get too triggered and activated. Then go off in that break and both partners can have a chance to regain the ability to think. You’re allowing the neurotransmitters and hormones in the body to come back to a normal level so you can be thoughtful and caring in your interactions. Now go back from this different place and see what you can do to continue the conversation.
Step 2: Stay in the Fight
For a lot of couples the problem is that one person or both people give up on the fight too early because they think, “What’s the point? We never go anywhere with these fights. It’s always the same thing.” The problem is, you’re never giving the fight a chance to come to completion. Stay in it. Volley the ball back and forth. When one person says something, you just respond with whatever comes to mind. It is often scary, but experiment with letting go of the control and getting messy.
If you stay in it and fight fair, you will get to a place where you have really expressed all of your feelings and heard all of the other person’s feelings. This enables you to can come to a place of actual connection. This type of good fighting is something that a lot of couples have just never experienced. Stay in it and be fair and you’ll get to a really nice place.
Step 3: Repair
If your fight didn’t come to that good place of completion, then come back and repair. Take some time to think about what you did to cause that fight and how you hurt the other person. However bad their actions were, how could have you have acted more constructively. Then come back to the table and lay those cards on the table. This takes courage and vulnerability, but share how you hurt them. Share the ways in which you realized you were being mean. Whatever it is that you can own as to what was causing the fight. This will hopefully inspire the other person to share their vulnerabilities and allow you to reconnect and work through whatever the hurt was. But don’t share your side and then get angry when they don’t immediately respond in kind. Just give what you can and leave it at that.
Step 4: Prophylactic Fighting / Ask to be Listened to.
The fourth key to having a good fight is that sometimes you know you want to have a good fight or you know you want to talk about something really hard, but you’re too scared. So many times we end up picking a fight in those moments or avoiding the subject and just dropping it. How do you enter into it in a constructive manner?
A really great way is to go to your partner and asked to be listened to. Ask them, “Will you listen to me, I got something that’s really bugging me and I’d love your help working it out but please just sit there quietly and listen to me.”
Give them a chance to say yes or no. Maybe they are not ready in that moment and they can say, “No I can’t do it now but I can do it in five minutes or I can do it in two hours or I can do it tonight or tomorrow morning,” but set a time if you’re not available as the listener.
And then you as the listener just looks in the other person’s eyes, while the speaker gets to share whatever is going on for them. You just keep listening and keep breathing and keep coming back to what are they saying now. Notice all the defenses that are running in your head: “No that’s not how it went.” “That’s not what I said.” “You did something different.” And just hear their suffering. Be there for them. They’re hurting. Just listen to what they are expressing and when they come to a pause, when they’ve said whatever they had to express, say, “Thank you. What else would you like to tell me?” Give them another chance to keep talking about all of the things that are bugging them.
It’s amazing how often all it takes is to really feel heard. There’s no solution that has to be worked out. There’s no fixing or deducing how the relationship needs to be better. Simply an expression of pain and hurt and a receiving of that pain and hurt.
Once you’ve said, “Thank you. Is there more?” a few times, and it really seems like it’s come to completion, just say, “Thank you.” The whole process can take ten minutes, maybe half an hour if there’s a lot that’s backed up, but if you do it regularly it can even be a five minute process.
With even the little things that bug you, that you would normally just push to the side, you can come forth and share and get them out of the way and move back into a good easy relationship with your partner.
So in summary, these four things can really help you have a much better relationship.
Fight fair and if you find yourself fighting mean, take a break so you can regain the ability to think.
Volley the ball back and forth. Stay in the fight till it comes to completion.
If it didn’t naturally happen, come back and repair the interaction by expressing your vulnerability about what you did to cause the fight.
Catch yourself before it ends up in a fight, ask to be listened to or hear your partner’s expression of whatever is going on for them.
Thank you for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this. Please join the conversation below but this is hard stuff and we’re all doing our best. So please keep it friendly. And if you like the video, please share it with your friends. I’ll see you next Friday for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.