“When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.”
You’ve asked him a thousand times, and then some. Still, he forgets. Interestingly enough, he doesn’t forget to do the things that he enjoys or thinks are important, like watching sports, relaxing with a cold beer, and re-arranging his brand new wrench collection.
So you ask again, nicely. He reassures you, then goes about his business.
So you pout, bat your eyelashes in Hollywood star-like fashion, trusting that your sexy, vulnerable look is going to melt his heart, fire up his brain, and lead to his taking out the trash without you even asking, or even better, him asking you if there is anything else he can help you with. Alas, the eyelash batting doesn’t work.
So you start yelling. Naturally, you’re angry. How can he be so insensitive? How can he not care or notice or make the slightest effort to understand you? Doesn’t he get you’re not a vacuum cleaner on legs and that you can’t be in 10 places simultaneously, taking care of 100 different things? Doesn’t he see you need a little romance and validation? Why does he have to be so darn lazy and selfish all the time?
You’ve reassured her you’ll get stuff done. But she doesn’t stop nagging. She walks around like a drill sergeant, huffing and puffing every 3 seconds, hunting for the next crisis. Why can’t she just sit down and relax? If she hates doing so much, why doesn’t she stop and take it easy for a bit?
And how are you supposed to know what she wants? Because she wants something all the time! Nothing is ever good enough, or done in the right order. No matter what you do, she always points out what you forgot to do, and insists you’re doing it on purpose.
So you suggest sharing a quiet moment in front of the TV. The game’s on, what could be more fun and relaxing? Instead of joining you and being grateful for your affectionate gesture, she gives you the look of death.
So you retreat. Surely she’ll get the message that you’re willing to give her the space she needs to get her stuff done without you being in the way. Alas, your considerate gesture goes unnoticed…and worse, her Facebook status indicates you might very soon require stitches.
So you start yelling. Naturally, you’re angry. How can she be so insensitive? How can she not care and notice and make the slightest effort to understand you? Do you have to be a mind-reader? Doesn’t she get you’re an adult? What gives her the right to be such a control freak all the time?
Yes, well, there you have it…your typical scenario that leads to couples fighting. And the issue here has nothing to do with who is right or wrong. Each partner has a different perspective, different rules and expectations. Each partner makes assumptions that lead to conflict. Each partner has a valid point to make. Problem is, if the attempt at negotiation ends up with both partners throwing their valid points at each other, the end result will only be that the whole ‘house’ burns down. There is no putting out fire with fire!
So how do we get two people who’ve worked themselves up into a frenzy of self-righteousness and aggravation (and are only too eager to punish each other and prove once and for all who’s guilty) to fight fair and put out the fire instead of burning down the entire neighborhood?
Here are some tips:
If you’re about to have a fight, don’t. Go punch a pillow or something. Take a deep breath. Think about the person you fell in love with. This person is who he/she is because of all that is both wonderful and irritating about them. Take another deep breath. Is what you’re about to fight about really important? Can it be discussed later, in calmer fashion, over dinner and drinks perhaps?
Be a responsible detective: evaluate the ‘crime’ and assess the ‘motive’. Is her life purpose really focused on controlling and nagging you, or is she simply asking for something because she needs it and it’s important to her? Is he really hell-bent on ignoring and disrespecting you or does he simply think and prioritize differently than you?
Imagine your partner’s mistakes and/or expressed frustrations as genuine calls for support and understanding (rather than aggressive attempts at judgment and control, or displays of carelessness and disrespect). Then ask yourself…would you cut off their head over whatever it is that’s causing an argument? If the answer is no, then consider that fighting is the easiest, most aggressive choice available. How about re-thinking the whole thing? (If the answer is yes, well, then you have a problem and should probably call 911.)
If you absolutely can’t help getting into an argument, leave out the ‘always’ and ‘never’. Using these words means you’re every bit as nasty as your partner is about to tell you that you are. Besides, you can get your partner to feel guilty in other, much more subtle ways. Using those two bad, bad words is a cop-out.
Build your case on examples of how your partner’s actions in the past have made you happy. Be specific. If all you’re going to do is demonstrate what a jerk your partner is, then why would you even bother arguing with someone like that? You don’t really believe it, you’re arguing because you love your partner and want his/her support, so show it!
If while looking at your partner you start to fantasize about household objects randomly flying in their direction, ask yourself if it might not be more fun (and helpful) to do the unexpected…like rush over and give them a big hug and kiss and well, you know… Seriously, wouldn’t it be more fun to play together than fight over who did what? If you’re angry and irritated, what’s going to make you happy and relaxed? More anger and irritation?
If the doing the unexpected thing doesn’t work and lands you in more trouble, make sure you do something really nice for your partner anyway. Buy her flowers, buy him a new remote or something. Seriously, little bribes…oops, I mean surprise gifts, work!
Accept differences without judging…your partner is neither insane, nor a troll. Honestly, most of the stuff that causes conflicts is a consequence of people not thinking about differences. (It’s also mostly men’s fault, but let’s not go there…lol). Loving someone means understanding the other person is not like us, doesn’t think like us, doesn’t prioritize like us. We wouldn’t like it if we were expected to become like them…and it works both ways.
Ok, so it’s not all so easy and fun, but I promise you, with practice, it gets a lot easier and a lot more fun. Some people are more argumentative than others for different reasons, and obviously all couples face tremendous challenges on a daily basis as they try to balance work, household duties, children, finances, intimacy, and private time.
Ultimately though, it’s important to recognize that if we’re aggravated, it usually means we’re looking to improve a situation, which in turn means that we’re seriously and lovingly invested in a relationship. The challenge is to keep THAT in mind, and work on not only fighting fair, but fighting less…looking for ways to make some adjustments within ourselves rather than expect our partners to change, and get angry at them when they resist. If both partners can also manage to think of what the other one needs a little more often, then both are guaranteed to receive a lot more understanding, feel a lot more loved and appreciated. Which is how we want them to feel, is it not?