How to Fight Better - Part 2
Why most people come for Couples Counselling? Because they are tired of fighting.
In PART 1 we talked about different styles of conflict, different ways couples fight.
What is your style?
Is it Attack-Attack, Attack-Withdraw, or Withdraw-Withdraw?
Have you started paying attention to your pattern a little bit more?
Maybe you even saw that it really doesn’t matter WHAT you are fighting about - you always end up in the same boat, the same spiral that takes you down?
It's very frustrating and discouraging: “Here we are again...at the exact same spot. Nothing ever changes.”
Once you identify your fighting style, can you get familiar with your cycle (that downward spiral that takes you out)? Really get to know it. The triggers, emotions, unmet needs, resentment, disappointment.
“When I get triggered I get sarcastic; When I get sarcastic you get defensive; When you get defensive I feel that you are not hearing me because it wasn't about you, and I get frustrated and I raise my voice. Once I raise my voice, it's over ……...”
That’s the enemy, not your partner.
It’s you and your lover AGAINST the cycle.
Notice it, become familiar with it. And then try something different.
If you are the person who tends to attack, maybe next time you notice yourself heading for that dangerous slope, ask for a redo and try a Gentle Start Up .
If you are the person who tends to withdraw - pause, take a deep breath, and take a risk by telling your partner what you need in the moment.
- Maybe you need time to process and then come back to that conversation.
- Maybe you need your partner to lower the intensity so you can feel safer.
- Maybe you need reassurance or a hug before you can continue.
If both of you tend to withdraw, and you know that’s your pattern, decide you both are gonna try something different.
Use a code name to call the pattern, schedule time to process it and use some structure that will ensure both of you have a chance to share and be heard.
Set your partner up for success.
Tell them what it’s about - “Baby, this is challenging for me, and my usual pattern is not to talk about it at all, but this is important and I want us to be closer to each other more than ever. When is a good time to talk about it?”
Remember, this is a very difficult conversation at the best of times; It’s not easy for anyone. It’s not easy to change patterns that are deeply ingrained in us.
It’s one of those things that is easier said than done - so I do not write this post lightly; I’ve been there. I know it takes a lot of work, and I also know it’s possible to have these relationship building conversations.
A lot of couples find that this is an area where they definitely need extra help - please know you are not alone. Don’t get discouraged if you run into roadblocks, it's common and normal and help is available.
Maybe, if you already had a giant fight, come back to it when you are calm you can use one of my favourite Dr. Gottman’s tools - Aftermath of a Fight .
I’ll share some more tools in future blog posts. If you have any questions - please ask me.
If you need more support and you want to explore Couples Counselling in Calgary or Online around the world - Book a Free Consultation.