Losers fight and fighters always lose.
When it comes to intimate partnership, fighting means you both lose. There’s no losing the battle but winning the war. If there’s a war, you lose, my friend. Period.
Fighting achieves exactly nothing.
Did you know research clearly shows that debate is not effective in changing others’ perspectives, convincing them to think differently, or persuade them to a different view? It’s super-not-effective at getting people to do something against their nature or opposed to their self-interests.
(Other methods of rhetorical persuasion and manipulation are effective, hence the posturing and ninja-skills of politicians and the like.)
But in intimate relationships, fighting is REALLY NOT effective in providing connection or allowing either person to feel heard and understood.
So why do people fight?
I’ve come to believe it’s just one thing really. Not a bunch of different things and not even the combination of this person plus this person equals conflict.
It’s an individual thing. An inside job. A very human, universal, and understandable failing each of us carry with us. (Me included.)
Call it your Should Monster.
The Should Monster shoulds all over.
All over you. All over other people. In your home. At work. On the highway. About the government. On the other.
This gigantic beast makes quite a mess!
Another word for this is expectation.
Losers fight because of expectations.
I’m NOT saying have no expectation in order to avoid disappointment. That’s hogwash as well.
“Expectation” is NOT the same as having a “standard.”
We have standards for how we will and will not be treated, what we accept and do not accept in relationship. It’s healthy to have standards.
Kindness is a standard. Accountability is a standard. Honesty is a standard.
But expectation is a demand, a requirement, and it usually comes with an inherent (and harsh) ultimatum.
I have standards.
Because they are healthy. Not because I’m trying to get my needs met and that is a HUGE distinction. I have standards because they are helpful.
For example, one of my standards is that couples do not fight in my office. You don’t need to pay me to watch you do that. Trust me, I already know how it goes.
(Also, don’t pay to argue with me, either. It’s all counterproductive. And frankly, you can’t pay me enough to make it worth my exhaustion. But we might explore what’s going on with you that you feel the need to do stuff like that!)
Most importantly, it’s not healthy for you to do more fighting, perspective arguing, or score-keeping. It won’t solve anything, and it’s a waste of our time, energy, and your money.
So, it’s a standard. There is no fighting in my office.
I wish I could magically transfer that standard to all my clients’ living rooms and bedrooms, automobiles, and lives!
Let’s get to the heart of solving this.
Despite my knowledge that fighting is counter productive and that debate is ineffective as a means to sway anyone (and especially an intimate partner) I still get tripped up by my own Should Monster. Like anyone, I can catch myself imposing a should on someone else: you should do more of the driving, you should share your feelings more, you should do half the work in relationship, you should be more empathetic, you should spend more time with me.
All those things are NICE and I might want them and LIKE the idea of them. And, in fact, I can be perfectly RIGHT about them. But the Should Monster spurs the fight and the fight gets us nowhere.
Slay the Should Monster first.
How do you do that?
1. Put it in it’s place.
Say something like this to that bad boy: Quiet down, Should-Dude. Take a chill pill. Go sit in the corner. You are in time-out.
I’m serious about speaking directly to it and putting your Should Monster in the corner. That is right where it belongs while the grown-ups sort things out and take care of real business.
2. Step back and take a breath.
Let’s face it ONCE AND FOR ALL: human beings deserve respect. We’re infinitely valuable. That said, humans are sentient beings with incredible will and a whole host of feelings, thoughts, longings, and needs. Every.single.human. (Including your partner..or that person you’re fighting.)
Just take a breath. Your agenda for that other person is really quite inappropriate. Let it go while you exhale.
3. Focus on what is going on with you.
What is behind the drive to get the thing or the behavior or the response you “should” get and the other “should” understand? Do you know why you’re actually expecting them to DO or BE or give that?
After all, your expectations are really about you, your values, beliefs, and rules that YOU live by…and some of them might not actually be very kind…to yourself or to other people.
(I know. It can be hard to figure what’s going on with you all by yourself sometimes. We don’t always see ourselves -or others- clearly, which is why a good therapist can be so helpful. Here’s help finding a good fit.)
4. Let it go.
In the meantime, acknowledge the drive or desire and let go of the tension, demand, and drive behind it. Especially once you realize the expectation is coming from somewhere deeper than that other person, it gets easier to stop demanding in the present moment.
5. Get help if you need it.
Some of you will turn this around on your own. You’ll stop fighting. You already know the fight is a lose/lose strategy. You’ll pause, examine your expectations, realize they are harsh, maybe immature, or come from a history that the other person has nothing to do with.
For those of you who continue to struggle or resist the logic of stopping the fight, give me a call. There is definitely a very good reason you’re having trouble with that part of it. I’d love to help.CONNECT