Fighting sucks. I know that this is about as controversial a statement as saying that ice cream is a nice treat on a hot day, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. Learning to fight well may not make them a pile of rose petals, but it can at least take away the thorns. Ultimately, everything about “fighting well” comes down to one simple statement:
Fight Like You Love Each Other
What does this mean? Simply put, it means treat your partner with respect, honor, and humility; even in conflict. It can be difficult, and I have had clients look at me as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears when I explain this. As Dr. John Gottman says: “Would you rather be right, or married?” In other words, don’t let your desire to win the confrontation overshadow your desire to build up your partner.
Fighting to win is an easy trap to fall into, because generally speaking we don’t like to lose. The issue is, of course, that if there is a “winner” in a relationship conflict then there is also a “loser;” and if there is a “loser,” then the whole relationship suffers.
This is where “Fight like you love each other” comes in. Approaching conflict with an attitude of love and respect for each other is a sure way to come out of the conflict victorious. It may require a change of mindset though. Here are a few tips on how to fight like you love each other:
1. Set some ground rules
Name-calling, shaming, criticism, and contempt spewing forth from both parties doesn’t make for a productive conversation. A good first step toward staying away from this trap is to set ground rules for fights. No name-calling, no eye-rolling, no shaming is a good place to start. Have a conversation with your partner (not during a fight) about what ground rules you would like to set for conflict.
2. Remember who you’re talking to
When you started dating, your partner may as well have hung the moon. You loved them so much that you thought that spending the rest of your life with them was worth the cost of a wedding! Now you’re fighting all the time, and they are the biggest jerk on the planet. It is very easy to get hurt by the ones we love, and it is very easy to resent them for hurting us. When you let resentment replace love for your partner, then the relationship suffocates. This is still the person you love, so approach them that way and the conflicts will follow you into a loving attitude.
3. Choose to love them
This one sounds hokey, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Not everyone is the perfect partner all the time. When yours isn’t, it’s up to you to choose to love them anyway. Give them respect, honor, and (as much as you can muster) trust. Your partner will hurt you, and you will hurt your partner. When that happens, choosing to love them despite the hurt tells them that you can accept them no matter what. Universal acceptance is the soil in which honest discussion grows.
4. Validate, Validate, Validate
Here’s a pro-tip for you: if you can’t understand your partner’s position on an issue, don’t argue with them. Instead, focus on trying to piece together a picture of their perspective that you can understand. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not, if you can look them in the eye and say “I see where you’re coming from,” then the “fight” will become a debate; and you can start to move toward each other. This is validating your partners perspective, and it is an essential tool to bring into any conflict!
These are just a few examples of ways to approach conflict with a loving attitude as opposed to win-seeking. Obviously there are many more, and the things which work for one relationship may not necessarily work for another.
What are your thoughts? Have you had an experience where you have fought with a loving attitude? What are some good “bumper stickers” that help you remember important things?