Fighting is unavoidable.
Knowing how is essential.
Since getting married, I don’t think my wife and I have had a major blow-out fight because we have the skills and we practice them. Now when Ellen and I fight, argue, or disagree, we are efficient with our challenges, triggers, and disagreements because we learned how.
So, if you are afraid of conflict or avoid it, you’re screwed until you face this fundamental fear.
Ellen and I put together these 10 steps or agreements you can get in place as “preventative care” in your relationship.
Want to fight efficiently? Check these out before you get into your next tussle with your mate.
1. Set context and agree to a growth-development based relationship that can handle upset and conflict. If you are not open to learning about yourself and your issues when conflict comes up, you won’t make it.
2. I agree to make clear agreements like these prior to getting in a fight and even early on in your relationship for maximum efficiency and minimum pain/damage.
3. Agree to learn how to say yes to conflict. The goal is not to never fight. We want to bring stuff out. Let’s get that out. When we say yes to conflict, we open the door to more honest communication and truth telling. On the other side of conflict is a deeper connection. You cannot and will not have a good solid lasting relationship without learning how to deal with the shit the comes up between you and your partner. To me, this is choiceless.
4. I agree to the practice of “no blame.” (biggest place couples get stuck). Rather than say “When you did behavior X, I felt Y….” Everything is an opportunity to take responsibility and learn about self, and other. Blame inside your head so you can get underneath it. Don’t blame them outwardly.
5. Agree to speak with care and respect. When we get heated, no matter how intense it gets, we agree to demonstrate respect and care. No yelling or screaming or speaking in a way that scares the other person. No Sarcasm or making fun of each other either.
6. I agree to not make threats of leaving in the heat of the moment. One of the worst things you can do in your long-term relationship is to make threats of leaving. Mentioning the word separation or divorce in the heat of the moment is deeply damaging to your brain and can further embed fear and mistrust in your partnership. So, no more threats.
7. I agree that If we start an argument, we’re going to finish it. In other words, I agree to “stay-in-relationship” with you until we are complete with the fight. Space and breaks from talking are allowed, but I will always return to you to finish what we started until we both feel the issue is resolved. The attachment brain specialists agree that the sooner you can repair the better.
8. I agree to learn and know the tools that will help you feel safe and understood. To do this well, you have to become a great listener and great communicator. I teach R.E.A.L communication in my courses and these tools are essential to work through tough material. Don’t pretend you know how to listen well or talk effectively if your partner thinks you suck at it. You probably have something to learn.
9. I agree to go vulnerable as quickly as possible to invite softness into the process. In our experience the conflict will take a turn for the better when someone remembers to soften out of a fearful or defensive posture. One person has to drop into your heart and feel something. “Honey, I feel hurt or scared.” Then of course allow yourself to feel it, own it, share it. Be seen in your vulnerability even though it can trigger your partner. Often it will soften them too.
10. I agree to learn how to repair effectively until we are both satisfied and spend whatever time it takes to do so. When one of us distances or shuts down and times goes by, I understand it’s my responsibility to repair whatever breach has occurred by owning my part, listening deeply to you, getting your experience and completing our disagreement.
Proactively think about:
- Deal with transitions. There something changing in our life and we have to discuss this new big transition and how we’re impacted.
- Learn to know what you are fighting about (3 types of fighting)
- Learn how to calm down during a fight.
- Once you figure out what works, share it with another couple.
Okay, go have this conversation with your partner asap before the shit hits the fan and your pants are down.