When you're a toddler and do something wrong you're quickly corrected, told to say sorry, and keep playing. When you're a teen and you do something wrong, you usually have a close friend to point out how the other person was being an ass and you brush it off and move on. When you're married and you do something wrong.... well what are the rules for fighting?
I'm defiantly not advocating that you should fight in a marriage, but I would also be unrealistic if I told you the occasion would never come up. You are blending two different people, with different backgrounds , different experiences and emotions and I don't care how perfect you are for each other, you are bound to have a fight or two.
But here's the kicker, does it really have to be a fight? I mean can't it be a big argument or hard talk? What not. "Fighting" sounds so violent and like there should only be 1 winner, which is literally the opposite of what a marriage stands for. So remove the word "fight" and lets learn how to navigate through a Hard Conversation.
During my time in therapy, there were PLENTY of things I could have fought with my ex about. And fight is the correct word in my case, but it didn't have to be. What I'm sharing is that my therapist gave me a very clear road map of how a SUCCESSFUL conversation should go and something that was not happening at ate time.
Making sure you are aware of the 5 LEVELS OF COMMUNICATION will not only keep you away from fights in any relationship, but it will make your conversations (the easy and the hard ones) so much more meaningful and fulfilling.
THE 5 LEVELS OF COMMUNICATION
A conversation you could have with a friend....
ONE: Surface Conversations. EX. "So how was your day? Did you get anything done?"
TWO: Reporting the Facts. EX. "It was okay, I got the laundry done and baked cookies"
THREE: Opinons and Judgements. Ex. "I should have done our taxes and worked out, but I'm not feeling motivated and I'm just super lazy today"
FOUR: Feelings and What Your Gut's Saying. Ex. "I think the laziness is coming from some anxiety I've been feeling lately. I'm not sure why but I can't seem to shake it."
FIVE: Intimacy Truths. Ex. "To be honest, things at home have been rough. I don't feel like we talk very much and it's leading into a to of tension. I'm not sure how to stop what's happening."
A successful conversation must move through the levels IN ORDER, and then DECEND back down. So if you're not very close with someone you might not hit level 5 in a conversation and you might stop and 3 and that's perfectly fine. But have you ever been in a conversation where you start by saying "Hey, how's youre day going? Isn't the weather nice today?" and the response you get goes something like this, "Ugh, today has been awful. My husband told me that I spend way too much money on Amazon and that he's cutting me off and now I have to get a job to pay off the debt." In you're head there's NO WAY you're not going "Holy moly, that feels like a lot or personal info" Right? Because the person jumped from level 1 to 5 and without warning. It's hard to follow and take back down. You'll most likely leave on a friendly "I'm sorry, but I've got to run" note, and while you escaped what seems like international sized luggage bag to unpack, that person is no where closer to feeling like her issues are resolved or fulfilled.
I know the conversations I've used as examples deal with a conversation between friends, but take the same principles and apply those to the conversations you have with your spouse. Make sure you're moving through the levels in order. Hard or easy conversations should have this structure and they NEED to move back down. There is nothing worse then sitting down with your spouse and moving through the levels and getting to level 5 where maybe your talking about something really tough and your crying and looking for resolution and they go, " I should wash my car." and get up and walk away. Not only are you left there crying and upset, but your conversation didn't really end, there's no resolve and closing. Even in an easy and friendly conversation between spouses, it never feels good to be talking about something (even if it doesn't bring you to tears) and their response doesn't match your conversation level. FOR EXAMPLE, maybe you're at level 3 and you say "I feel like I'm killing myself at workouts but my dieting isn't doing me any favors. I want to be fit and healthy and I can't figure out how to do that" And their response is a Level 2 like "Eating less calories is how people get in shape". I don't know about you but I'm thinking "Thanks dick".
This information is so important to be aware of while you communicate with anyone you're in a relationship with, especially your spouse. But while you might become hyper aware of of their responses to your words, you need to make sure you are just aware of your responses and listening skills as they communicate with you.
By now, you should have figured out by now that EFFECTIVE communication is the one of the most important keys to a successful and happy marriage. But in case you've found your relationship in a moment that has bypassed the gentle nudges and you're in hard conversation land and maybe even "fight" mode here are a few tips that can help bring you back from that terrible place.
These are my tips on how to "FIGHT FAIR"
Move through the 5 Levels of communication correctly.
Make sure you feel safe and are free of distractions so that you can not only be heard but also listen to what will be said.
ONLY bring up 2 issues that seem to be causing the most tension at the moment. It's easy to let things snowball if youre in an argument and the tendency to bring up all the hurtful or annoying things may rise. Stacking the deck against your spouse at the moment may feel good (trying to prove you're in the right) but this will only keep you from resolving the issues at hand. And once you resolve the 1 or 2 issues that you brought up you can move on to the other things at a later time. It's true when older generations say "pick your battle". It's doesn't mean letting things go, it just means timing can play a factor in a productive conversation.
Never say anything about your spouse/ partner to a friend that you wouldn't say to their face. As girls, we learn to build bonds over heartbreak, I'm taking about the "I've been there too" idea. We want to be relatable and understanding, so we often share our hardships with friends. We do this to either vent or looking for advice, and though I think having a tribe that has your back is so important, be conscious of what those conversations look like. It's not helpful to have friends that openly encourage you to call your spouse names (or call him names themselves), they shouldn't be egging on revenge or retaliation, and they shouldn't fuel you fire with more bad news. Having friends that encourage you to be honest is great, but hurtful and spiteful is not the same thing. They should be be there to help find real solutions and ways to make sure you're happy. The moment you bad mouth your other half, you've given up a bit of respect that your marriage/relationship demands and you can never get it back. Imagine that after you've had one of these "vent sessions" with your girls, you've managed to get things back to a good place with your spouse. Weeks or months later a friend accidentally slips and tells your group of the night you said he was.... "dumb like his father". Can you imagine how that would make him feel? How does that make you sound? And what kind of fight did that just start? Without mutual respect, your relationship cannot last.
Never use trust as a weapon. This also falls in line with respecting each other, but it goes a bit further. When you've decided to enter into a intimate (not necessarily a sexual) relationship with someone, you build a certain level of trust. Maybe you share some deep secrets, or hurts, or past facts. You share those things out of love and maybe safety. When you decide you feel safe enough to open up about those things about yourself and share them, you hope it's without judgement and without strings. You should never use those things as fuel, blackmail, or even leverage when an argument comes up.
Do not point fingers. Instead of saying "You do...." or "It's because of You that...." That will immediately be received as an attack and defense mode will activate and then there is a good chance no one is listening to anything that is being said. INSTEAD, try starting off your sentence with "I wanted to know how you felt about X,Y,Z, because the more I think about it the more I feel uncomfortable with it" Give them a chance to include their feelings and thoughts while still stating how you feel or think about it. Turning the conversation around to focus on why you're bringing up an issue and how you perceive it will help keep all communication lines open.
Be ready to apologize, and not just say sorry. During on of these arguments or fights, there's a good chance hurt has been felt on both sides. Be ready to take responsibility for your part and eat that slice of humble pie gracefully. Sometimes its better to be sorry than right.
The rules of Love and War get a bit more confusing with age. Saying sorry and moving on doesn't work like it did back in the sandbox. Fast forward a few decades and add someone that you love and spend all your time with into the mix, and the rules just got a lot more confusing. But it doesn't have to. These tips on the levels on communication and what to say and avoid in a fight should help keep the arguments from turning into fights, and even bring your fight back down to an argument and maybe even into a conversation that ends with resolve for both sides. I'd like to say that the easiest way to avoid a fight is to get naked and "never go to bed angry" but the REAL keys are respect, honesty, and communication. And maybe after, you can get naked...#winkwink
With Love and Glitter,