Does this sound familiar?
Ashley heard the door open and got excited for a split second before a familiar tightness rose up in her chest. Instead of telling Jeff about the new client she landed, Ashley put on her “I’m glad to see you” mask and walked on egg shells for the rest of the evening hoping not to argue again. Strangely enough, Jeff was having a similar experience and had sat in his car around the block for 15 minutes before finally going home.
For months now, something had been off between Ashley and Jeff. They tried to talk about it, but those conversations ended in frustration and distance. They even caught themselves thinking “will this work?”
Fighting … Not the End
You’ve been told lies about what makes a good relationship. Fights don’t mean the end of a relationship. If you know how to listen, fights can direct you toward a better relationship. It can be powerful if you learn to listen. Fights become a problem when they start to erode the trust and connection you have. In other words, fights are a problem when they are more painful than productive.
Where Things Go Wrong
Fights are one of many ways you get feedback about your relationship. Unfortunately, fights are often misinterpreted.
My grandpa was one of my favorite people. He had an odd way of dealing with people who didn’t understand English very well, though. If he started to see that the other person wasn’t following the conversation, my grandpa would start talking louder and louder until he was almost yelling. I can imagine he terrified more than a few people who had no idea why this man was yelling at them.
Fights are your relationship doing the same thing. It’s trying to let you know something, but not being understood.
When the root of the fight is not addressed, the fights get more intense, become hurtful, and erode trust and closeness in your relationship.
The key is trust. If you are reading this, trust is probably in short supply. Trust gets eroded through unproductive fighting, dishonesty, infidelity, or previous life experiences from outside of your relationship. Part of the work of therapy is to build trust so real communication can happen.
It’s a Cycle.
Rebuilding trust gets harder the more painful, unproductive fights you have. When you expect a painful fight, it makes sense that the first reaction is self-preservation. The fight or flight response takes hold and communication stops. Suddenly, what started out as, “Where do you want to go for dinner?” begins to feel like a life or death struggle.
The more painful fights you have, the easier it is to slip into that fight or flight mode. I can help you turn the tide, learn how to reverse the cycle, and start growing your relationship again.
Fights aren’t always FIGHTS.
Every couple has their own signature way of dealing with conflict. Fights can be completely silent or loud, passive or aggressive*, big or small. In each case, they can either help or hinder your relationship. Once you know how to hear what your relationship is telling you, your fights can be more about growing your relationship (productive) and less about winning or running for cover (painful).
* Physical or emotional abuse is never okay. If you are experiencing this in your relationship, please get to a safe place before doing anything else. It doesn’t mean your relationship has to end, but a major overhaul needs to happen if physical or emotional violence has become acceptable.
So, now you know that fights aren’t always bad, but that knowledge doesn’t do much to reduce the pain and frustration you are experiencing. You are on the right track, and it’s a good thing that you are looking for help online.
Take the next step and get in touch. I can help you and your partner learn a new way to do conflict.
Set up a consultation to learn more about what it might look like to heal your relationship.