I grew up in the 1980s, a time when movie love affairs were always depicted as wildly passionate by means of two tropes: the night-time, silhouetted love scene, and The Fight: a fiery, very public screaming match that would always involve slamming stuff or clothes being thrown off a balcony.
Naturally, when I later had my first ‘Almost The One’ love relationship, it seemed only fitting that our passionate love affair enjoyed passionate public arguments. At the time, this was easily done since we were in Taiwan and our neighbours probably thought we just crazy waiguorens noising up the place with incomprehensible shouting.
And we did a lot of shouting.
But, despite all that energetic expulsion, nothing was ever resolved. Each time we let rip at each other, all we did was simply add another few inches to the tear that would eventually split us up. The louder we shouted to be heard, the less we were saying and the less we were hearing each other. Rip, rip, rip…
I opt for more constructive arguing these days. I consider conflict less about practicing my vocal range when firing off those barbs, and more an opportunity to learn more about myself and my partner. ‘Learning moments’ I call them now. I think the Millennials and their sensitive feels have rubbed off on me, because ‘fight’ seems like such an ugly, superficial word.
Nevertheless. Try this for your next ‘learning moment’…
Discuss how you’re going to argue way before you ever do, and decide to make the health of your relationship a priority before the need to be right. Managing conflict well isn’t about who gets to be the winner. It’s about coming to a win-win for both partners. (Thanks Stephan Covey.)
Stop the snowball from becoming an avalanche. De-escalation can look like including non-inflammatory humour or taking time out. How you de-escalate can be something you talk about when you have that ‘how we’re going to argue’ chat.
Use I language
This means you take responsibility for your feelings, share them honestly and without attacking your partner’s integrity. In other words, ‘you never listen to me’ becomes ‘When you switch off in front of the telly, I feel like you don’t really listen to me, and then I feel disregarded and unimportant to you.’ It also helps de-escalate arguments because the opportunity for blame and the consequent defensiveness is diminished.
Because we enjoy different beliefs and upbringings, we all filter information differently. Sometimes what we hear isn’t the message that our partner was trying to get across. So check in with what you’re both saying: once you’re finished saying something, ask your partner what they heard you say and how they feel about it – and vice versa.
Get a dishwasher
Don’t waste time fretting about stuff that can be solved by calling on, or acquiring, resources that will help you override the small lifestyle differences that irk. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
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