It can start so easily. One minute you’re just making dinner or watching TV, the next minute you’re snarling at each other, or stalking off in a hurt silence. Sometimes it’s because of things either or both of you brought home from elsewhere – a hard day at work, or even something that happened on the drive home. Sometimes it’s because of another fight, one you had a day, a week, a month or a year ago, but never managed to talk through and resolve. Or sometimes it’s a fresh hurt: one of you feeling neglected, overruled, or put down in that moment.
Regardless of how it starts, there’s something about every fight that’s the same. It feels bad. And especially the kinds of fights that have a “winner” and a “loser.” The truth is, that kind of fight has no business in a relationship between two people who love each other!
Some experts talk about “fighting fair,” or say fighting is healthy. We’re not among them.
In most cases, it looks to us like every single fight brings a relationship one step closer to the end. We rarely see fights that bring a couple closer! Instead, each licks her wounds at the end, and tries to re-engage – but usually from a more guarded place. Over time, that increased guardedness leads to what we call “scar tissue.” And that scar tissue between two people leads them to stop having sex… stop having fun… and, eventually, to stop wanting to be together at all.
But how can two people live together, especially over a period of time – two people with different perspectives, needs, preferences, experiences – and not fight? Ah – we’re glad you asked! We spend a lot of time thinking, teaching and coaching about this very question! The answer lies in learning how to communicate and be heard. When you’ve got that skill – and its partner skill, which, of course, involves learning how to hear your partner – then you’re much more able to skip the fighting and let your conflicts become opportunities to learn more about yourselves and each other.
Does that sound too good to be true? Pollyanna-ish? Once, we might have thought so too!
But we’ve been together for nine years, and we don’t fight. We are very different people, and we’ve navigated all kinds of challenges together — family crises, economic challenges, severe health issues, various moves cross-country, and lots more. Yet we’ve avoided the scar tissue, and we just keep getting closer, and loving each other more!
So how do we avoid fighting – especially with all the inevitable tensions and difficulties those life circumstances have brought us?
The answer lies in a set of skills we each developed, and practice every single day. And the greatest thing about these skills is that they are learnable! Neither one of us knew them in our earlier relationships. But after years of pain, we committed ourselves to acquiring them. And guess what? They work! You can learn more about them in our online course, Communicate and Be Heard, or check out our coaching options.
If you find yourself lost in fights you can’t win – or tired of the whole dynamic of fighting altogether – you have the power to change it – if you are willing to learn new skills.