Couples Fight, So Do It Better

Photo by  Tim Mossholder  on  Unsplash  for Terry Klee, nationally recognized couples counselor.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash for Terry Klee, nationally recognized couples counselor.

If you haven't noticed, couples fight. So, here's a quick start on how to, uh, fight better.

POSITIVE EMOTIONS & DIVORCE

It's not about whether or not couples fight.  Healthy couples fight, sometimes as much as unhealthy couples fight.  The secret, and big difference, is this:

• Couples, who divorce, turn toward their partner’s desire for attention only ~30% of the time.

• Couples, who are happily married, turn toward their partner ~85% of the time.

When we turn towards our partners at a high rate:

• We are more able to exit fights earlier-on.

• We are also more likely to succeed in our attempts to repair the damage done.

In contrast, couples who seldom turn toward their partners get stuck in downward, never-ending cycles. They just can't exit their negative emotional states, not in their minds and not in their interactions.

"Who’s getting taken care of?" becomes a score card. You versus me.  Not both of us. As a result, any real conflict, like Your mother-in-law is coming on our vacation? spills over into other parts of the relationship. Say, What the 'ell, you ate the last burrito?!!

A vicious cycle takes root — statistically, ending in divorce.

KEY SKILLS FOR A "COUPLES FIGHT" — HOW TO EXIT & REPAIR CONFLICTS

  1. Be kind about your triggers and your partner’s. What’s really beneath an upset?

  2. Express a triggered moment with a soft start-up. That is, begin a conversation gently.

  3. Listen calmly if you are the initial target of an upset. Make space for wishes or regrets.

  4. Take responsibility for some part of the conflict. How we interact matters: Response Ability

 

“WHAT ELSE IS REALLY GOING ON?”

Here’s what compassion looks like...

Amidst a fight, ask your self  What else is really going on here? because, beneath every negative emotion or outburst, there’s a longing—a positive need. This means we want to turn towards our partner’s anger (aka, empathize with them) and help them discover the longing/fear/bruise beneath the tantrum.  One could almost think of it as vomit. (Yes, you read that correctly.)  If your partner just threw up a bunch of complaints all over you, stay with the vomit. As off-putting as it is, seek to learn what’s making them so sick. Don't turn away or yell back.

 Beneath every negative emotion or outburst, there’s a longing—a positive need.

5 to 1 RATIO — WHERE'S THE FRIENDSHIP WHEN COUPLES FIGHT

Daily positive interactions are paramount. We call this the friendship.

Caution: When a friendship’s daily interactions drop below a ratio of five positive emotional interactions for every one negative interaction, the relationship deteriorates very quickly. Not only does the friendship deteriorate, but then the couple is also unable to exit any fight very quickly, and they're even less able to repair the damage.

When a friendship’s daily interactions drop below a ratio of five positive emotional interactions for every one negative interaction, the relationship deteriorates very quickly.

This is why focusing on the dynamics of the friendship is as important as learning how to fight better.

 

FOCUS ON THE FRIENDSHIP & YOUR FIGHTING WILL EASE UP

To be sure, ask your self how often you share positive emotions or negative emotions. There's a list below for starters. If you're usually dolling out negative emotions, then your "couples fights" are bound to get stuck in a never-ending, downward cycle.

POSITIVE EMOTIONS (+)

• Kind

• Calm

• Compassionate

• Interested

• Affectionate

• Playful

• Empathetic

• Curious

• Sincere

• Revealing

• Listening as much as speaking

• Funny

• Humble

• Grateful

• Giving

NEGATIVE EMOTIONS (-)

• Critical

• Defensive

• Harsh

• Stonewalling

• Angry

• Sarcastic

• Passive aggressive

• Belligerent

• Domineering

• Hurt

• Sad

• Disappointed

• Better Than Thou

• Selfish