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Never Fighting in a Relationship is Bad

conflict,fighting,blame,arguing,respect,relationship problems,relationship

 

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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Never Fighting is a topic worth exploring because in the 6 years I’ve been blogging one of my top 3 posts read all over the world is “Couples Never Fighting = Not a Good thing.” We all love the illusion that “Love means we are clones”. So we spend the years holding hands because we have so much in common. We love this ideal because it’s not messy.

It’s also not authentic, there are always differences in every relationship: one likes sunbathing, the other hides from the sun;one person wants sex & the other doesn’t, one likes spicy food, the other doesn’t, the differences in relationships range from the mildly annoying to gigantic values collisions.

If you experience no bumps in the road then someone is most likely just being too silent. In working with people I’ve never seen a couple where there wasn’t validity to both people’s perspectives.

The trick is learning to let two opposite viewpoints sit next to each other & respecting that both have merit, instead of making it a contest where somebody is right & somebody is wrong.

We do love the simplicity of it’s either right or wrong; black or white, 1 or 10 when we think & feel. It’s harder to deal with the complexity of 4,5,6,7 which is acknowledging that truth lies in between the right & wrong; the grey area that is in between both people.

I would tell my kids, when they were little that I could be mad at them & love them at the same time. Teaching them early on that two opposite things can both be true. I spend so much time teaching clients that Complexity is so important to embrace in order to keep relationships working.

Disagreement allows more room for truth & complexity, more opportunities to grow by acknowledging another point of view. There is a great movie from 1996, that demonstrates this; Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow back when she was young & radiant. My favorite scene is after a picnic where Emma has been despicable to a peer who is plain & poor. Mr.Knightly calls her out on her behavior instead of ignoring it. He is crystal clear with her, that she was obnoxious & needs to make amends.

Real love is truth telling so we grow up into being better people. Love demands we be our best. Speaking up is the only way to get there.

Take parenting & love as one example, if you constantly go along with your kids & ignore their bad behavior, then there are never any real consequences….. .do you really love them or are you just taking the easy way out? or Do you do the harder work of setting boundaries & telling them the truth so they grow up with a glimpse of what character really means. I remember how much I disliked flossing my kids teeth at 3, it was a pain in the butt. It was also the right thing to do, the really hard thing to do.

Consider how rare it is to hear real dialogue exchanged between two people. We live in a world where most partnerships simply exist with each person taking turns delivering a monologue. The advantage of parallel monologues is avoiding real disagreement and today everyone finds it noble to avoid conflict. “Look at us we appear to get along so well, aren’t we the lucky ones” no you are just relationship where one person is swallowing their differences & pretending it doesn’t matter.

Conflict is spice in a relationship, it honestly keeps things more interesting.

Learning to conflict with respect is a totally possible achievement. There is this assumption that conflict is ugly & must be deflected. Conflict truly is a crucial source of growth.

Often Couples are peacock proud of never fighting. What this really means is that there is a habit in the relationship where someone is usually acquiescing to the other partner. Think of all those old tired jokes about wives; “Ask the Boss” says the husband ha ha ha. I know a guy that was so people pleasing he let his wife spend money they didn’t have on everything from fancy coffee to vacations they could not afford. I know another guy who was so frugal they never went anywhere or did anything & his wife was very unhappy though she silently went along with it.

So what makes fighting more successful & respectful? Being able to acknowledge the other person’s point of view. Usually, people are so stuffed full, of only of their own point of view, that they can’t even begin to listen to someone else.

Self righteousness & blame totally suffocate respect.

Blame is all too easy & it shuts down disagreement & any ability to think or listen. Blame is all about the certainess of MY FEELINGS & screw you I’m not really interested in what you have to say. Blame is an emotional manipulation that keeps us acting very immaturely.

So I will end with a challenge to make your next fight more respectful:

After fighting & before voices escalate, I want you to stop, take a break & take 15/20 minutes to write down 3 things. 1. what’s important to you about the fight. #2. what’s important to the other person. Then the 3rd step is to write down what’s important to you with greater vulnerability & more complexity.

Exchange the papers & try to dialogue. If you get the other person’s point of view wrong then you are too self righteous & you need to step back & consider more carefully what makes sense about what they are saying.

Thanks for listening. This is Rhoda sharing what I’ve learned from 35 years of working with couples. I hope you’ll subscribe to my podcast.

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