My husband likes cats, and I’m a dog person. That alone should be a clue that we’ll make each other crazy sometimes. But being a student at heart, I had to test that again last night.
After our tough week, I laid into him with all that my wordiness could muster. I couldn’t care less about respecting his needs, strengths or unique view of the world! I fancied myself the cat in this picture.
Which, of course, went over really well.
Two hours of conversation and innumerable apologies later (they might have mostly been from me, but I’m not at liberty to say…) I realized I was actually the dog. Smacked down by my own disrespect and immaturity in how I related with someone I cherish.
Ever been there?
Even with those we love, we can forget how to fight in ways that honor them and the relationship.
So what, exactly, are the rules of engagement?
- Be honest. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. The truth may be hard to share (or hear) but it really is what sets us free in relationships.
- Share your feelings. Keep things in “I feel” or “I felt… when…” statements. When we take responsibility for our feelings in an argument we come from a place of maturity, rather than blame, defensiveness and a sense that we’re a victim.
- Be direct. Closely related to being honest, this is one of the hardest ones for me. Partly because being direct means we communicate effectively in few words, AND that we communicate effectively in the other person’s love language. It takes effort, thought, and a sincere commitment to know the other person.
- Give respect. When we’re hurt, especially if we’re feeling disrespected, it’s hard to respect the other person. But if we don’t speak in words and tones that convey the intrinsic value of the other, we’ll both end up on the ropes! It’s the whole idea of “being angry without sin.” Feel the feelings, but speak with respect.
- Be timely. Wait long enough to get your thoughts clear in your mind, but not so long that you let the conflict pass without resolving it.
- Look for their strengths. Each of us brings unique strengths and experiences to an
argumentdiscussion. Decide, no matter how much emotion is involved, that you will seek to connect with and honor each of your strengths. For me last night, it meant intentionally looking for how his strategic, focused strengths were helpful in a highly-emotional family situation we faced. I wanted him to freak out with me. He naturally wanted to process the problem calmly. Both our responses were valid, and as I chose to support his strengths instead of fight them, we could resolve the conflict.
Fair Fighting Fulfills Our Need
I have to admit my first instinct in this fight was to pull my husband right into my pain and exhaustion since misery loves company. While I wanted to fight after a very hard, emotionally draining week, what I needed was to connect. If I constantly threw below-the-belt punches, all I’d get was isolation, guilt and a lot more work to resolve later. Fair fighting may not give us the fight we want when we’re mad, but it gives us what we truly need deep down.
How are you at fighting fair?