Everyone knows that there is no intimacy without conflict; unless of course, you agree never to disagree. Then, you don’t have a healthy relationship; you have codependency. In healthy relationships, neither party subjugates their feelings to please the other. Conflicts need to be externalized and resolved. Couples need to have rules to negotiate difference. There are many modalities that teach couples how to have effective communication. I tend to lean towards Encounter-centered Couples Therapy, however utilize many others that can easily be incorporated. If you only have one golf club, you play a shitty game of golf. The incorporation of different contributions to couple’s therapy helps increase optimum results. Here are ten fair fighting rules that I learned from John Bradshaw that can be seen in his book: BRADSHAW: ON THE FAMILY:
- BE ASSERTIVE
Learn how to ask for what you need and express your feelings. Unless your partner hears from you what you are feeling and/or experiencing, he can never read your mind. It is important to express your truth even if it means hurting your loved one or making him angry. It takes courage to confront someone you love, but if you don’t, nothing gets accomplished and your resentment grows, hurting both you and the relationship. If your dude can’t handle your feelings, perhaps you don’t belong with him or you need to be in couples therapy to help work them through with a professional counselor.
- STAY PRESENT AND IN THE NOW
It is important to hear what your partner is saying and for him to be willing to hear you.
Going back in history and collecting data to make your point of what is happening now, is not as effective as being specific about what just occurred. If today’s problem is a re-occurring theme that you let swept under the carpet for fear of his response, then perhaps you can give him an account of several instances when this occurred, but from now on, stay in the moment with current issues. Collecting stamps and storing them up, often causes you to blow your top and come out acting like a shrew.
- AVOID LECTURING
Nothing turns a dude off more than having you lecture him and force advice down his throat. Lecturing is a sure way for him to check out. It will surely remind him of his mother or father, depending who did the lecturing when he was being scolded as a child. Use the CHANGE MODEL I wrote about in my other article or that you heard in the recent video.
Remember lecturing is an invitation for a fight.
- AVOID JUDGMENT
Guess what? Judgment is another sure way to invite a fight. Whenever you throw judgments around, it will spin right back to you. Judgments and criticism can be interpreted as shame, creating further distance between you. Remember to stay in the I (CHANGE MODEL). Use self-responsible statements.
- HONESTY AND ACCURACY
Nothing works better than being honest. Changing the facts to massage your point, exaggerating to make a point, or stretching the story only creates a stronger defense from the other side. Remember, the brain does three things with information and perception: it distorts information, it deletes information and it generalizes. It is very important to be as accurate and honest as you can. Three people can see an accident and all three can report it differently. This is because we all wear different filters when we perceive. Try hard to be rigorously honest. It’s your best bet.
- DON’T ARGUE ABOUT DETAILS
Another sure way to lose his interest is to detail him to death. Dudes want the bottom line. Just make it brief and to the point. If he needs more information, he will ask for it. If you repeat the same things over and over, add insignificant details to magnify the case, you will lose your dude to something that interests him more. Sometimes less is more!
- DON’T ASSIGN BLAME
When you make him at fault, he will find a reason to make you at fault. If you use the CHANGE MODEL, you will avoid blaming. Remember, it’s not a blame game. Unless he abuses you, ignores you, or is MIA, don’t blame. If he does any of the ones mentioned in the above sentence, leave him!
- USE ACTIVE LISTENING
This is a biggy! It’s real easy to unload a ton of shit on him; it’s harder to listen. And listen with a third ear. That takes practice. Most chics want to jump in and battle with their tongues. If you learn to listen, you may be surprised. Your dude may something you might have missed by jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Good listening is at least 50% of communication. Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s what you hear.
- FIGHT ABOUT ONE THING AT A TIME
Many people have the bad habit of leashing out a laundry list when they argue. Remember, the goal is to stay with one thing at a time. If you present him with a list of character defects and instances that occurred last year, or maybe 5 or 10 years ago, he will either become defensive or check out. Many chics carry a gunnysack with them when they fight and stack up evidence that includes every infraction that occurred in their entire relationship. This is never fodder for resolution.
- HANG IN THERE. GO FOR A SOLUTION RATHER THAN BEING RIGHT.
There’s an old expression: Would you rather be right or happy? Staying in there battling it out with effective fair fighting tools will be your best ticket to intimacy. Sure you will have differences. Who doesn’t? But, communication begins with discussion; not sex. Sex will not resolve your issues. Sex can be more exciting after the fight, but only with resolution. Many couples use sex as a distraction to discussion; NOT A RESOLUTION. Use your tools to fight fair, and your sex life will improve!
An excellent tool to add to these rules is the CHANGE MODEL, a model of effective communication.
Many couples had poor role modeling growing up in their family of origin. They never witnessed healthy resolutions, instead heard their parents arguing about the same things without any resolve. We only know what we know, therefore, we bring our past into our present repeating the same dysfunction again. Here is a model that can bring better understanding and reduce the tension in the relational space and help couples re-connect. It has five elements: perception, feelings, interpretation, needs and a contract.
COMMUNICATION CHANGE MODEL
- When I (hear, see) you……………………..PERCEPTION
- I feel (angry, hurt, sad, frustrated, etc………FEELINGS
- I (imagine, fantasize, think or wonder……………………………….INTERPRETATION
- I need……………………………………..…NEEDS
- If we could agree to………………………….CONTRACT
Using self- responsible statements (I statements) increases effective communication and promotes understanding and empathy!