After the Fight
All couples fight. Fights are unavoidable in an equal partnership.
1) A fight is an attempt that you make to get a point across that your partner is not able to hear at this time.
2) A fight is an attempt by your partner to get a point across that you are not able to hear at this time.
3) A fight is stalemate that is the result of 1 and 2.
What each of you says in the effort to make a point just leads the other to feel that his or her own point is being ignored. At any moment in a fight, what each of you says in an effort to be heard makes the other one feel unheard.
After a fight, we tend to do some of the following, none of which are helpful to learn from the fight.
· Leave it to our partner to make the first move
· Go on as if nothing ever happened
· Try to talk about it again, unsuccessfully
· Make some kind of peace offering, i.e. offer to help with dinner, make a joke.
Have you already identified which is your preferred style?
If we can understand fighting as failed attempt to get a point across, we can improve our ability to learn from our fights, and we can talk about our fights afterwards without resulting in a second fight.
It’s only after a fight when our ability to think resurfaces, that we can attempt to make our points more clearly and are ready to listen to the point of our partner.
Here are three steps for talking about a fight that are guaranteed to not lead to another fight.
Step 1. Switch from blaming your partner to sympathizing with him/her
. Take your partner’s point of view. What points was your partner trying to make? Ask questions to try to understand what your partner was trying to say. You don’t have to agree, you just have to understand.
Step 2. Talk about your contribution to the fight
, without talking about the contribution of your partner. Examples: “I know I said harsh things, I had a bad day and I took it out on you”. If you do this, it is more likely that your partner will also acknowledge his/her contribution to the fight.
Step 3. You can only move to this step after completing the previous two
. Use I statements versus you statements. Make sure that they are really I statements and not accusations disguised as I statements. What points were you trying to make? How can you rephrase your point in a way that is more precise and to the point?
If you get into another fight, you probably didn’t do all three steps in that order.
Fighting can improve your relationship if you learn the steps to talk after a fight. Are you ready to give it a try?
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