Often one of the issues that is presented to Adelaide Night and Day Family Therapy is couples fighting. The fighting takes many forms, and is often destructive of the relationship in one way or another. Sometimes what people say can be a deal breaker and some people find it hard to let go of these deal breakers.
I have written this in a way that there are 5 things to do and 5 things not to do. It might be worth putting the list on the fridge – but a rule I didn’t put in – dont point out where your partner is not following the rules. Use the “I” statements or “reschedule” rules.
- The first rule is always fight. Partners have differing opinions and its worth while working out the difficulties that this may cause. This is about connecting or communicating. But remember to follow these rules and any others you can find to be respectful in the way you fight.
2. Use “I” statements
- “I feel” not “you did this”
- “I feel unheard” not “I feel you are not sticking to the rules..”
- “I would like” not “you never …..”
- Feelings happen in your body and not your head. Feeling statements cant be argued with. I feel scared. I feel sad. no one can say “no you don’t”. But if you say I think you… or I feel you (this is thought not feeling and its a “you” not “I” statement) these can be argued with because it is about someone else not about you
3. Be respectful
- You are fighting because this person is important to you. Respect is a hard thing to gain and a very easy thing to lose. An easy way of losing respect of another is treating them with disrespect.
4. Listen rather than tell
- This is probably the hardest. But being curious about where your partner is at, and what it is they want, and what it is they are offering you in the fight could be the solution to the problem.
- Never force a fight. If there is an issue that you feel needs to be solved. Request a time. If you or your partner is becoming overwhelmed – try to find another time mutually agreed upon to finish the fight. You may keep rescheduling, and that’s OK. Sometimes it takes a while to be ready. But be respectful with each other enough to reschedule, and try to have the discussion that needs to happen.
6. No physical violence
- No hitting – this often should go without saying, but as our primitive responses come into play while we feel angry some people find that the anger is a good reason to act like a child and start hitting. Hitting is a deal breaker, hitting can be illegal, hitting rarely advances the argument, or dispels the fear that is causing the anger.
- No holding – sometimes when we feel unlistened to, or when our partner might walk off, we want to ‘make them’ listen by blocking the way or holding them albeit gently in place. You cannot make someone listen – you might be able to make them receive a sound – but they may not hear
- No throwing – sometimes when we feel angry – we just want to throw something to show how angry we are or to get the anger out. Ok you want to get the anger out – go outside and find the punching bag and hit it out of earshot of your partner and kids- or put the coffee or tea set on a tray and go and smash it into the bin one by one – again out of sight and earshot of your partner. Make sure that its your property that you are destroying not theirs or ours.
7. No Multiple issues
- Deal with one thing at a time
- Define your issue and stick to it
- Fix it then schedule the next issue
- It is rare for us to fix the world in an hour
8. No Blaming
- When we attribute blame, we are saying that the cause of whatever is going on is the fault of the other. This is in reality rarely the case, or if you really think it is, or have pages or proof and a legion of witnesses, your partner may not. This may be why you are fighting. Blaming therefore is unlikely to get the result you want. Even if your partner admits to something – don’t revel in the victory – revel in the reconciliation that may come about
9. No Past Issues
- “You’ve done this again” – “this is your pattern”, “you always do this”, or even more so “I remember when you….” The past is the past, the present is the present – try not to bring up examples from the past – stick to current examples of what you are talking about.
10. No other people in the fight
- Triangulation is a beautiful thing. “Your mother agrees with me – she says you..”. Ganging up can have far more consequences than we think at the time.
- Mentioning an indiscretion or fault to someone else may lose the support of that person for your family or partner forever. You may need to chat to a confidant or your friends about what your partner does, but leave it there, leave it confidential. And if your partner changes – or if you were not entirely looking at it from the most charitable view, let people know of your mistake or the changes that came about. Your friends and family may not want to socialise with someone who hurt their friend.
- “The therapist said you did this.” First of all, in my experience the therapist rarely said what is used as a weapon. If they did it is more often used out of context than on. And they never said anything that could or was meant to be used as ammunition against another. Be an adult don’t bring the therapist into the fight.
- When some people feel ganged up upon they may have a fight or flight reaction- they retreat from the fight into their cave or they come out fighting, not only with you, but with the others. This is not going to work for you.
- Relationships are rarely exactly equal. If you feel in danger, or need actual support to deal with the issue – ensure that your partner is not just being ganged up on, and try to encourage their agreement in having the third person there. If you feel in danger, it is best not to enter into a fight, find a way to safety. Here the police may be necessary.
- “You are not sticking to the “Fair Fighting Rules.” Pointing out a breach of the rules is another form of bringing the therapist, who offered you the rules, into the fight. Best not to do it. Again go back to the “I” statements.