Dear style & substance:
My mate and I are vicious fighters when a problem arises. Most often we live in fairly good harmony. I hear a lot about fighting fair….but in the heat of the argument how would we even think of doing that?
Believe us when we say all couples struggle with this! We believe that the best way to deal with it is to establish rules for fighting when you are not fighting. You may have done this in the past, however, it may be a good time to re-establish what you each find fair in the conflict resolution process. As relationships grow and mature, the fights tend to either mellow or you have developed some new hot spots.
Start by understanding what it is that really bothers you. Most couples have one or two issues that most fights or disagreements are based on; tone of voice, lack of compassion or support in particular areas of the other’s life, time and energy invested in the relationship, or outside distractions/diversions. Resentments which are unresolved are often the foundation of what gets under our skin. Sometimes fights are not even based on what we find ourselves arguing about at the moment. So, when things are cool, have a meeting or discussion about what your impressions are.
We all have strengths and vulnerabilities which inform our temperament and style of addressing conflict. One of you may fight with passion and want some resistance, the other may simply want to say “sorry” and move on. Understanding your partner’s style of conflict resolution will help reduce, and hopefully, eliminate vicious fights.
Get some rules together and see how they work. Some that we think are important are: If you are the “passionate one”, don’t just spring into action…keep your mouth shut and reflect while the intense emotions of the moment subside. If it still bothers you later on, then speak more rationally about the issue. Reacting while feeling an intense emotion rarely leads to peaceful resolution, especially if your partner is the “quiet” one – he or she will retreat and the issue gets buried only to arise in the future.