Have you ever thought about your fight style? Chances are, probably not. You know that you and your partner argue, every couple does. In fact, arguments can be a fantastic source of connection! It’s how you argue that really matters.
Dr. John Gottman, relationship expert and psychologist, can predict with 95% accuracy whether a couple will get divorced based on if they have 1 or more of the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I’ve added one because in over 1,000 hours of coaching, I see this one A LOT!
Criticism– Attacking your spouse’s character instead of their behavior.
Ex: You are so lazy! You are irresponsible!
Contempt: Feeling superior to your spouse in some way.
Ex: Walking around with a certain strut. Rolling your eyes. Saying things like “Well I make more money.” or “I do all the work!”
Stonewalling: Being physically or emotionally neglectful.
Ex: Your partner is talking to you and you completely ignore them. Putting a wall up to avoid getting hurt or letting your partner in.
Defensiveness: Blocking a perceived attack by acting like an innocent victim or using righteous indignation.
Ex: You’re lucky I even did that for you! It’s not MY fault! You ruined my day!
Gaslighting: A form of manipulation that involves twisting words or events to make your partner believe their perception of reality is false. Ex: Blatant lies. I didn’t say that (when you know you did). Maybe it was YOU who… or the one that I see most often, calling your spouse crazy.
On their own, you can see how these can cause serious problems in a relationship. Arguments are so emotionally and mentally exhausting. They make you wonder if the relationship is even worth it. Many times, this is the reason that divorces are filed. Couples get tired of fighting all the time and the fights being so toxic, they don’t see a way to end the madness. They’re literally too tired to fight anymore.
The good news is these fight styles can be overcome! It’s definitely not easy but it is worth it!
The trick is to catch yourself in the middle of the argument when you start to use one of these tactics and stop yourself. It takes great maturity, self-awareness and commitment to doing better for yourself and your marriage.
In my 1:1 programs, I walk you through how to change these based on what you are doing. We tailor it to your specific relationship but that’s a little longer conversation than we have in this blog!
I can tell you that you can start with empathy, compassion and listening.
Empathy. Instead of being so focused on being right, try focusing on understanding your partner’s point of view. Why do they believe in this topic so strongly? Are they misinformed? Is it because this belief has been handed down for generations? Is it based on experience? Put yourself in their shoes. Set your own need to be heard, seen and understood aside temporarily. You’ll get your turn, this just isn’t it yet.
Compassion. Wow! Would the world ever be a better place if we could all have a little more of this! Am I right? When you and your partner are about to kill each other over a political topic that is clearly not going to be changed in your kitchen at 10 PM or the chore that isn’t your responsibility, flip the script. Give your partner a hug and say these exact words “What is it you really need?” First, it’ll throw them completely off because who hugs in the middle of a fight?! Secondly, touch is an automatic compassionate communication piece. It’s powerful, needed and automatically makes our nerves calm. Asking what they really need stops the fight and helps them think. 9/10 times the fight you’re having has nothing to do with the topic you’re fighting over. Are they tired? Hungry? Need a break? Feel unheard, misunderstood, judged, unsafe, unseen? Address that first and you’ve probably addressed the fight itself.
Listening. There is a reason God gave you one mouth and two ears. Talk half as much as you listen and you’ll be in a lot better shape. Listen for the meaning behind the message, not just the words your partner is using. When we argue, our body goes into a fight, flight or freeze state and the outer layer of our brain (the part that makes decisions) shuts down. Words become a lot harder to form, find and use correctly. You aren’t done listening until your partner feels understood. Saying things like “I hear you saying….” or “Ok, just to clarify…” works wonders.
I hope this helps and realize that this is a novel but it’s important. Emotional regulation and fighting fair is insanely important in making a relationship progress, grow and thrive.
If yours isn’t thriving, these tricks don’t work right away, you are struggling to implement them and need help, please respond to this email. I am currently filling 4 spaces for couples to start in September. I am on a mission to help 12 couples have happier, healthier, more balanced and passionate marriages by October 31! Let me know if you are ready to be one of them! Payment plans are available.