Relationship rescue - Step 2
How to stop fighting
The habit of fighting
What makes a relationship work is having things in common.
What makes a relationship passionate is having differences.
Sometimes we get into such a habit of fighting with someone, especially our partners, that we don't even know how not to fight anymore. The resentment has built up so much that the passion is gone and we end up just surviving from one day to the next.
Here, I am going to take you through 4 steps to change that pattern.
Step 1 - Remember the love
The first step is to come from a place of love. Remember that you actually love this person and that you want the relationship to be one of love. Feel the difference in yourself when coming from a place of love vs coming from a place of anger. Can you feel the enormous difference? Coming from a place of love allows us to forgive and allows us to see it from their perspective, which then changes the way we react. This is a good start.
Step 2 - Give up the need to be right
The second step requires that you give up the need to always be right. We can easily get so caught up about being right that we end up killing the relationship just to be right and what do we really gain from it? Significance? Power? What do these things mean if you get them at the cost of the relationship? What is more important - the relationship or the power / significance? In the "EMOTIONAL NEEDS" part of this program we covered how you can get significance in various ways where it is not at the cost of someone else.
Giving up being right does not mean you have to make the other person right or that you have to be wrong. It simply means stop making it a competition. Nobody needs to "win". Everyone wins when conflict is resolved.
Step 3 - Stop trying to control people
This is a tough one which you will learn more about in the next step MASCULINE VS FEMININE.
Once people have reached adulthood, they have earned the right to be and do whatever they want, just like you. This means that you have no right to control anyone, not even your partner. We are so accustomed to "punishing" people or manipulating them by what we do in response to their actions. By doing this we get them to do what we want because they are afraid of the consequences if they don't. We use silent treatment, withholding of affection, spiteful behaviours, screaming and shouting and various other techniques to manipulate and control the ones we love and to get our way. This is a HUGE killer of relationships. Do you want to be with someone who does this to you? Do you want to be with someone who doesn't think you are good enough and is constantly trying to get you to change? I'm guessing you don't. You would rather be with someone who makes you feel special, valued and appreciated.
Now I hear you saying, "But does that mean I should just let them be late or be rude and say nothing?" No, that's not what I mean. It is still vital that you have boundaries, you just can't be manipulating and be controlling. Keep reading, we will explain exactly what the difference is and how to do that.
Step 4 - Take responsibility for how you feel
In the WHAT ARE YOU THINKING part of the program, we learned how nobody can make you feel anything. Everything only has the meaning we give it, which is determined by our thoughts and the feelings that come from them. So therefore, you are responsible for your feelings. I am not asking you to take responsibility for the situation or for what the other person did or didn't do, only for how you feel about it.
So here is an example...
Your partner comes home an hour later than they promised. Your mind goes haywire thinking about all the possible reasons he could be late, how he never does what he says, how you have to do everything, etc. your normal reaction would be to let him have it as soon as he steps into doorway. A huge fight erupts and you don't speak to one another for the rest of the evening.
By applying the 4 steps you firstly come from a place of love, not from a place of anger so instead of being angry and thinking about him possibly being with someone else, you consider that he may have been in an accident or delayed by his boss that wanted to see him. Step 2 allows you to not have to prove anything, not the fact that he is unreliable, not the fact that he doesn't respect you, NOTHING! Then we get to step 3 and step 4, do not control and take responsibility for your feelings, which is applied when he walks into the door. This is the most important part and it goes something like this:
You "Hey babe. You're so late. What happened?"
You give him a chance to explain. If he has a good excuse you proceed as follows:
"I get so worried when you don't come home the time you say you will. I need to know that you are safe?" Notice how you are taking responsibility for feeling worried. You are not making it his fault. He is not making you feel worried, the situation is making you feel worried. There is no blame or criticism and your needs are expressed clearly.
Now, if his excuse is feeble and it is obvious that he just doesn't care about being late it probably stems from being controlled or manipulated by you in the past and he feels the need to be like a defiant teenager. Here it is vital not to repeat your patterns (you are trying to fix the relationship) but to rather approach it a new way. Instead of all the usual stuff you simply express your boundaries, something like this:
"It is really important to me that we get to spend some time as a family in the evenings. Our days are so hectic and we hardly get to connect during the week." This gives him an opportunity to see you vulnerable.
A man wants to be a hero and a woman’s power lies in her vulnerability. I am not talking about weakness, which is where you give your power away, but rather about vulnerability, where you allow someone to take care of you, giving you great power.
Men are driven to fix things and if you genuinely express your feelings, in a natural and vulnerable way (no attacking, blaming, sulking, screaming, etc) he feels compelled to fix it and to be the hero.
Sometimes you need to step back from what you need or what your partner needs and focus rather on what the relationship or the team needs.
Another reaction option would be something like:
"My yoga class starts at 6pm and i cannot make it in time when you are late. " This is a more direct approach to a reoccurring problem that needs to be expressed. You are simply expressing the fact, not attacking. Use your sharing voice, not an attacking voice. Then continue, "When this happens I feel disrespected and devalued (not "you have no respect for me", that is attacking). My yoga class is really important to me and I feel so disappointed when I miss it. Here you are taking responsibility for your feelings. He has an opportunity to be remorseful but don't depend on it. Don't let his reaction determine yours. Your needs have been expressed clearly and if he does in fact respect and value you, he will make an effort in the future.
Knowing what you really feel
Before we can express our true feelings, we first have to understand them ourselves.
Sometimes we show anger when really we are feeling embarrassed or disappointed. We think we feel insulted when really we are hurt or sad or we think we are annoyed when really we are anxious about something else. Sometimes we think we feel hurt but really we are frustrated that we can’t control someone. Fear can also be easily seen as anger or frustration.
Remember that thoughts create feelings which create actions which create our reality. So here is where you take the one you are aware of (be it the thought, the feeling or the action) and work forward and backward with it until you have the genuine feeling. The thought will normally be your indicator. Yo will learn more about this in STEP 5.
If you still battle, try to locate the feeling in your body. Feel where you feel it and what it feels like physically.
Rules to fighting fair
I’m sure you will agree that most fights happen as a result of one thinking the other is being unreasonable or selfish and then it spins out of control as you both try to get heard. The more you fight, the less you achieve.
Here are some basic fight rules:
- Don’t run away – Although it may be a good idea to take a time out and calm down before trying again, running away only makes the divide bigger and the distrust more. Make sure not to stay away too long.
- Don’t keep nagging – If the argument is getting heated don’t keep nagging and carrying on. Take a breath and wait for things to cool down a bit.
- Don’t go quiet – Don’t go into silent treatment which often happens when you are not being heard.
- Don’t demand anything from anyone else – that takes you back into controlling mode which is the fastest way to push your partner away and not get what you want.
- Listen to what your partner is really feeling. Look past the anger and the screaming and look for the pain.
- Sympathize with their pain
- No swearing and screaming
- No attacking of the person’s character
- No throwing things or destroying property
- Never fight over a phone, sms, email or via someone else. Only 7% of our communication is in words and when communicating via one of these methods it leaves room for a lot of misinterpretation and misunderstandings.
What normally happens is that we stuff down our feelings so much that eventually when we explode it comes out as screaming, criticizing, blaming, accusing, complaining and drama. When we express ourselves this way we are often expressing a need, an opinion or a request for help and we may even tell the other person exactly how to help us but the way in which we do it makes them firstly not able to hear us (due to their own defenses kicking in and preparing for battle) and secondly not want to help us (because they are too busy helping themselves survive this battle). This is the fastest way to get someone not to listen to you and to withdraw or run away. When you can express yourself in such a way that the other person has sympathy for you and wants to make you feel better, that’s when your needs are met.
The fair fighting approach
Timing – If your partner is busy with something or distracted by something it may not be a good time to talk. Make sure they are in an approachable mood and that it is casual and relaxed. Ask to chat or say that you have something you would like to discuss.
Keep your cool. Do not use a stiff voice, scream or be “huffy”. Use your sharing voice.
State the fact. If you need to say something in the moment and there is no time to wait for the right timing you start by stating the fact. “I have been waiting for over an hour”. If it is not in the moment you can skip to the next step.
Make “I feel” statements instead of “You did”. “I felt worried that something happened to you” or “I feel humiliated and devalued”. Make sure to keep the focus on yourself and your feelings. There must be absolutely no accusation, blame, criticizing or anything that can cause a fight.
Ask your partner what they think. If they are defensive remind them that you are not attacking or accusing them but just expressing how you feel and that it is taking a lot of vulnerability on your part. Remind them how important communication in a relationship is and how much you want it to work.
Express your needs. When the other person shows interest in what you need, express it. Again be careful not to tell them what to do but rather tell them what you need. So, not “I need you to wash the dishes more regularly”, but rather, “I need help with the dishes”. So focus on “I want”, “I don’t want”, “I need”, “I don’t need” statements like “I don’t want to stress about money”, “I need to know you are safe”, “I want more free time”, “I need to feel valued”. Here you will give them the opportunity to come up with a solution without you telling them what it should be. He may either volunteer, suggest a roster for the family to make turns or employ a maid. Their idea may be better than them being made to help you through control and manipulation.
If you try to use this method to manipulate your partner or to guilt trip them into giving you what you want it will backfire and all trust will be lost.
You may want to practice with a few small issues before tackling any big ones. When expressing your feelings try to avoid really strong words that can invoke a reaction like angry, infuriated or frustrated. We are programmed to go into defense mode when we hear these words no matter how nicely they are said or in what context. Find a deeper emotion like disrespected, devalued, invaded, unimportant, embarrassed, powerless (which is normally felt as anger) or humiliated to explain your feelings.
By not making it about the other person, they don’t feel attacked and don’t go into self-defense mode and can hear what you are saying and relate to you.
By saying “No” in a way that is all about you and not about anyone else puts you in a very powerful position where your boundaries are very clear, your expectations are clear and you get what you want. Your “I don’t want”, or “I don’t need” or “I don’t like” or simply, “I don’t…”, are powerful ways of expressing this. Setting your boundaries without hurting anyone is the clearest message of self-esteem and self-love that anyone can express and creates vulnerability and authenticity. It is one of the most attractive qualities a person can have.
A good fight every now and then is not necessarily a bad thing
No matter how nice we try to handle situations, sometimes things need to be said and actions need to be taken and a good fight can sometimes clear the air and create a fresh start. Built up tensions can be released and guarded filters can be blown clean. Sometimes a fight is necessary to move to the next level or to get someone to realize how serious you are about an important issue but only after the nice way has been tried and the action still keeps being repeated. If your boundaries are not respected and your partner keeps actively doing things to destroy the relationship it may be time to call it quits and move on with your life.
How to repair a broken relationship
You may be so angry and disappointed that you can’t think of anything satisfactory about your partner at all. Here are some questions to help you see them as they are, without all the drama of the relationship, and all the feelings, and all the said and the unsaid, that stands between you.
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