Hopefully after reading first part of this series (Talking Tough Part 1: Why Do Couples Fight?), you were able to reflect on how you react to confrontation. Do you yell? Do you say hurtful things? Or do you simply walk away?
Gaining control of your emotions in a tense situation is never an easy thing to do, but at least one of you needs to be strong in order to slam on the breaks and redirect an argument from being destructive to constructive. If you are the type of person who needs a cooling-off period before you can talk it out, it is vital that you communicate to your lover what you intend to do. Even if you scream, “I love you and we need to talk but right now I’m really pissed off!” at the top of your lungs, it’s a step in the right direction. The two key bits in that statement are 1. “I love you” which validates your real feelings towards your lover, and 2. “we need to talk” which lets your lover know that you aren’t just running away from the problem.
Now, without further ado, here is the technique for effective fighting:
Step 1: Hit the breaks. This can be accomplished by one of you simply saying, “This is getting out of hand and we need to listen to each other.” Heck, pick out a code word that you throw out when the fighting gets intense – anything that you can agree on to bring the fight to a grinding halt.
Step 2: The first person gets to have their say. So, who gets to go first? Relationships are all about give and take, so if you were the person who was levelheaded enough to hit the breaks, then give your partner the chance to speak first. That small gesture will go a long way toward cooling their temper.
You may use a “token” to identify whose turn it was to speak. The token can be anything – that doesn’t matter – what does matter is that whoever is holding it gets to speak. If you both feel you’re too cool to use a token, that’s all right. Just make sure you are conscientious about taking turns.
The speaker gets a sentence or two in which to explain why they are upset. Keeping it short is the key. That way you have to express what is really upsetting you without dragging all the other bagging into the discussion. Usually there is an underlying problem that has caused the tension to build between you. For example, “I feel like you never do your share of the chores and I have to clean up after you all the time!”
Step 3: The second person repeats what the first person just said. This is the key to the whole method. It forces you both to listen to each other. You don’t have to repeat their statement word-for-word. This isn’t a memory test. If what they just said to you sounded like, “You’re lazy and don’t get enough done around the house” then that’s what you repeat back to them. Make an effort not to get snarky, but be sincere about what you hear them saying to you. Men and women speak and listen differently, so your partner may not realize that what they are saying hurts your feelings.
Step 4: Switch roles and repeat steps one and two until you come to an understanding. You don’t have to agree in the end – simply understand one another better.
Some arguments can be resolved quickly. Others may take a while. As I’ve said before, it is normal and healthy to have disagreements in any relationship. The key is to communicate with one another in a way that doesn’t cause hurt feelings.
Share this information with your lover. Try it out the next time you find yourselves in a fight. I can honestly say that using this technique has made my marriage even stronger, and taught my husband and I how to really listen to each other.
Next time: Making up is fun to do!