Couples Training: Conflict Resolution Game Plan

What do you call a disagreement with your spouse?

You know, like when things get out of hand.

Are you having conflict?  Probably.

Are you officially having a fight?  It certainly sounds like it.

With all of the arguing the two of you may be experiencing, should we call it a festering dispute?

How is that different than a spat or squabble?

And how on earth do you bring an end to the mindless fussing and fighting. You do know it can really injure your marriage.  I wrote this post for couples determined to bring an end to their misery:

How To Stop Fighting & Arguing From Ruining Your Marriage

Perhaps you are feuding…that has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Now speaking for myself, I like to call those fussy times I have with my wife as bickering.

Though actually as I think about it, it’s really more of a spat, which is a whole heck of a lot better than locking horns.

I don’t want to ever do that.

We have all these words to describe marital discord, but what does it really all mean and how do we stop it?

Who can teach us about such things?

Sometimes I am convinced we make things harder for ourselves.  I talk with young and older married couples every day and the one thing that most of them all have in common is that when it comes to their marriage, they graduated from the School of Hard Knocks.

I mean really, do you ever hear anyone say that attended and graduated from the “Couples Training Academy?”

Or how about the “Husband and Wife Humanities Certificate Program?”

What about majors?

As a couple, can you major in “Temperament Control in Marriages” or “Conflict Resolution in Relationships?”

Nope, there is no such degree programs for such important things.

You can buy a book or attend a workshop or seminar that might cover something that would be helpful to you and the person you intend to spend the rest of your life with.

But in most cases, those kind of actions are after thoughts or reactive.  And you cannot even be sure if the book or workshop is really any good.

Take fighting in marriage, for example. Why wait to get help and training on something we are all darn sure will happen.

It’s a shame all these young folks (and older folks too) get married with little preparation on what they really need to do before, during, and after a relationship fight.

You know, there is this famous piece of wisdom that Stephen Covey, author of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, developed which goes like this:

“Begin With The End in Mind”

Realizing that at some point we will engage in the all too familiar human behavior called “fighting”, it seems that we should do something about it.

We should sharpen our fighting skills, but not to win.

Rather we need to learn both how to prevent these fights from occurring and then once they start (and they will), we need to have developed the competencies to manage and resolve the conflict.

Well,  I don’t think you and I are going to overhaul the educational system.  Though it does seem odd to me that there is no degree program for something as important as two people getting married and spending a lifetime together.

It is certainly not something that we all have great expertise in.

I mean, the failure rate of marriages is around 50%.

It seems to me that people could do a lot better if they could attend a 2 year or 4 year institution and learn all about having successful relationships.

If I was to hire someone to help me in my business of assisting boyfriends, girlfriends, and married couples with their relationship needs, I would love to be able to hire somebody with a bachelor’s of arts degree in let’s say, “Coupling” or “Marriage Forever”.

Diploma MMH

Ok, fake diploma aside I think at the very least I can contribute to addressing this huge oversight in how people are prepared as they enter into marriage.

Our marital success should not be left to the relationship school of hard knocks.

That kind of thinking is like playing a doubles match (tennis) without learning which shots work best in certain situations and the rules of the game.

Tools for Marital Bliss

tools

We need tools for couples that are entering into marriage.

Heck, all of us who are married need the same tools to help us stay on the right marital path.

If I was newly married, I would want to understand what I can do to prevent fights from ruining my marriage.

When things get tough (and they will) and a couple starts quarreling, will they have the ability to navigate through the haze and fog of battle without causing lasting damage?

If you have not already, take some time and read this post because it cover a wide gambit of topics that can help you and your spouse get things back on a better track:

How To Save Your Troubled Marriage

What I see first hand, every day, are people hungering for help on bettering their marriage.

There is a great motivation to raise their game.

Husbands, wives, boyfriends, and girlfriends are desperate for practical and ACTIONABLE advice so they don’t end up tearing down the relationship.

You spend so much of your time, investing your passions and opening your heart to make for a happy and fulfilling marriage.

But when things start getting tough and problems in the relationship begin to surface with greater frequency, wouldn’t it be useful to have a manual or tool that can help you?

The focus of this lengthy guide is to provide a tool that can specifically help married individuals.

I want you to learn how to fight more fairly.

Make no mistake, reducing marital conflict is just one of many challenges couples face daily.

I encourage you to continue to read the My Marriage Helper guides that I will be publishing weekly on a variety of topics.

They will be filled with practical ideas, tactics, and tools.

But first things first,  you must learn why fighting with your wife or husband can bankrupt your marriage.

It is a slippery slope when a couple allows themselves to routinely fight, fuss, bicker, and argue.

So today,  I am going to narrow the focus on the marital fight game.

And make no mistake, we are truly playing a dangerous and seductive game when we take the bait and get caught up in the fight game with our lover.

I am going to try to help you get out of this mess!

Why is the Marriage Fight Game so Dangerous and Seductive?

fighting

I am a huge fan of the UFC.  The men and women who participate in the Ultimate Fighting Championship matches are among the best trained and conditioned athletes on this planet.

When they walk onto the ring apron, they have spent months of training, learning how to deal with all sorts of situations that can crop up in the bout.

gsp training

And why do they train so hard?

Well, it for the same reasons why you should get some training on what to do in a fight with your spouse.

You see, fighting with your significant other is in your blood.

It beckons back to the very early days of our species existence.  There is something primal in us all that we sometimes have to release.  Our pressure cooker lives can sometimes unleash that animal.  Some call it a beast.

After all, we are the dominant species on the planet and we did not become that way by always being placid.

To survive in nature, we battled and our species emerged as the dominant force on this planet.

So the fighting spirit to survive and sometimes to just take things we think we deserve…. that desire seduces and arouses us to conflict.

evolution

That is what makes fighting such a seductive behavior.

Deep down, we have this need to release pent up frustrations or to win or be first at something.  the anger within us  has to go somewhere, and the beast in us sometimes just takes it out on whoever is around.

Sometimes that person is your wife or husband.

Now, marriages are suppose to be couplings of two individuals dedicated to help and love each other.

But because we are two different people trying to merge into one (spiritually), there will be some degree of friction and hardship.

We know that we need someone in our lives to make us feel more whole, but on other occasions we may feel all we want is to be left alone.

And hundreds of other variables can affect our mind and mood states.

So it’s sort of weird, isn’t.  There is the natural push and pull phenomenon that occurs between couples.

They don’t wish to fight, but they do.

We have evolved to become more civilized.  Over thousands of years, we have learned to live mostly in harmony, but the beast in us all can rise up for any number of reasons.

The whole marital fight game is a messy and emotional  byproduct of many things.  We are drawn to a fight. We can easily participate in a fight.  But we can also be appalled by fighting.

And make no mistake, conflict with the person of your dreams can be a dangerous undertaking.

The damage you cause when you hurl verbal insults or accusations can run deep and be long lasting.

By the way, when I say “you”, please don’t think I am talking specifically  about “you” the person reading this now!  I am just using that word to illustrate a point!

What is the Health of Your Marriage Trust Account?

long time

I have talked a lot in some of my other posts here on My Marriage Helper about how I see a relationship as a sort of “counting machine”.

When we get married, an emotional “trust account” is opened.  Or we can call it our “love bank”.

In real life, a Trust Account is setup for the benefit of an individual.

It is there to help protect the person financially.  It is geared to look out for the person’s welfare.  It is meant to preserve the good things.

You put money or assets into the Trust Account and watch it grow and prosper.  As you draw down on the Trust Account, the balance decreases and some of the capital you invested, is lost.

The Trust Account becomes smaller, less secure.

What happens to your marriage “trust account” when you have a great deal of conflict in your relationship?

You got it, right!

Some of the trust and love you built up in your account is lost….not all of it…but damage is being done.

And that is what I see everyday when I speak with couples or individuals dealing with conflict or relationship dramas.

Like a thousand pin pricks, all of these little skirmishes, insults, accusations, and other relationship damaging behaviors can slowly drain the Marriage Trust Account.

When we ramp up the conflict, such that it develops into arguments and full fledged, knock down, drag out, fights….guess what happens to your marriage love account?

I think you know.

These larger withdrawals can cause immediate and serious damage.

Our Relationship Ladder of Trust and Love

ladders invented

I think you are familiar with how long it can take to build trust.  Like climbing a ladder, rung by rung, trust and love usually builds in a slow fashion.

Sure, sometimes we get bit by the love bug and go head over heals with our feelings toward another.

But mature and lasting love as well as real trust takes a longer time to fully develop.

Like building a beautiful house, before it’s fully erected, a foundation must be poured…. a scaffolding system must be in place….. and the structures of the home (walls, roof, plumbing, electrical, etc) must come together before we can truly call it a home.

Well, it’s very similar for those of you building a relationship.  It takes time to really get to know someone and develop the chemistry.

As you become a couple, prior to marriage, you are erecting something.

You are building toward a bigger thing.

None of this is accomplished overnight.

The trust you have in each other grows and strengthens.over time.

Now, let’s go back to my “ladder climbing” analogy!

You have invested all of your time and good efforts to climb the ladder of trust.  Then suddenly, you do something really stupid, like perhaps have an affair and it is discovered.  (Again, I am not referring to you the reader personally.  Just using an example!).

The ladder (of trust) wobbles and quickly down you go, slipping and sliding down several rungs of the ladder.

Possibly, you fall completely off the ladder.

Now the trust has eroded or may be completely broken.

This is the sensitive nature of trust.

It takes a lot of effort to build it up.  But relationship trust can take a huge tumble if we do stupid things and fall prey to the beast in us…..like endless fighting, backbiting, and highly emotional outbursts..

So we all need some help to overcome our fighting ways.  Why continue to jeopardize your relationship trust account?

Well, let’s do something about it.  What I like to do is provide my clients with advice that is “actionable”.

What does that mean?

Simply, if the ideas I promote can’t  be put to use in the real world and actually help you, then I serve you not.

This Guide is not meant to be an academic paper.

It is aimed at giving you some actionable ideas and tactics you can put to use immediately in your relationship.

The tool (see below) that I have created can be used in multiple ways.

First and foremost, it is an actionable game plan that will help you and your spouse improve your marriage.

You can also use this tool as a means of assessing where you stand with your conflict resolution skill levels.

And that is important.

First, you need to learn what you don’t know or have not tried.

Then armed with that information, you can act proactively to better your marriage.

Let’s get started.

Conflict Resolution Skills Assessment Tool

(Instructions: Check off each skill or tactic you have made use of during a fight with your spouse.  Then tally your results to arrive at a total number to see how skillful your are in avoiding or resolving fights with your husband or wife. Utilize the Rating Scale found below.  Remember, the best results from using this Tool is to discuss it with your spouse BEFORE a fight breaks out.  Consider this as the most sophisticated Do It Yourself relationship training module you have ever participated in.  Just the process of discussing this Skills Assessment Tool and all of its tactics and ideas with your husband or wife will benefit your marriage in multiple ways.  Each of you will raise your awareness of how destructive marital disputes can be and learn how to fight fair (if you must fight).  )

1 _____Start with the End in Mind:  At the very beginning of the fight, just as it is becoming clear that serious conflict is emerging, vocally raise the question, “Do we really want to make withdrawals to our trust bank?”  Give yourselves an out.  Just maybe you will both realize in that moment that fighting is a zero sum game.

  1. _____Admit to Your Wrongdoing:  I have made it very clear in my writings that there are no winners when spouses fight.  Both of you are losers when you dig in your heels and go at one another.  But do you know who the biggest loser really is?  It’s the very thing both you and your hubby or wife have created….Your Marriage.  My experience with couples is that usually one or both of them know in their hearts when they are wrong.  So admit it. That will help cools things down and go a long ways in diffusing the heated atmosphere.

3._____Utilize the Cool Down Principle:  You know how it feels, right!  When a fight breaks out, we can sort of lose our minds.  Some people actually see red.  It’s true…. it actually happens.  I am going to bring in an ophthalmologist to comment on this phenomenon some day!  So let’s say you and your honey are getting all worked up. Well, when you get all emotional, you might as well toss out any chance of having a nice and rational conversation.  So I say to you, when you feel the steam coming out your ears, please call a time-out.  It’s time to cool down.  Take a break.  If you are arguing in the bedroom, then announce that a break is needed, and walk to another room.  How long should you cool off before you try to resume discussions of any kind with your spouse?  It depends on the severity of the problem and the intensity of the emotions flying around.  It could be 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or an hour.  Sometimes longer.  But don’t resume dialogue with your significant other until you both have your act together. Rarely does anything good come from talking to each other when you are both still very upset..

4._____Show You Care By Not Fighting: Once a dispute or fuss of some kind is underway, you need to stop thinking about why you are right about this or that.  You should avoid any notions you have about launching a counter attack as a defensive measure.  Believe me, I understand.  We all have our pride and no one wants to be bullied.  We are conditioned to defend ourselves and fight back.   But let me tell you, that is a long term losing strategy.  As soon as you become aware you are in a fight, take the “Holy Jesus” approach. By the way, I don’t mean to offend anyone with my reference to Jesus.  It’s just the best illustration I can think of that makes a powerful point.  When the discussion morphs into a fighting situation, then turn the other cheek.  Show empathy for what your husband or wife is saying.  Prove to them that you are really listening.  Become a pacifist.  These tactics can be powerful ways to defang the tiger that has temporarily taken over your spouse.

  1. _____Humor Can Be Your Friend:  You are probably noticing that some of these tactics have to do with diffusing the fight.  Why is that?  Well, I have found that often, though not always, that fighting can erupt quickly.  But it can get stomped out pretty fast too if you have developed some counter measures.  I don’t want the couples I work with fighting.  So I teach them counter measures.  Think of a jet fighter engaged in air combat.  When the enemy swoops down to try and take them out, what does the pilot do first?  They make a maneuver and launch counter measures.  Well, the use of well placed humor is a counter measure.  It can’t be sarcastic humor or humor in which the couple takes turns belittling each other.  But a humorous line or two that puts the entire absurd spectacle in its proper place, can be very effective.  I mean really!  The spectacle of you and your lover fussing and fighting and choosing to make withdrawals from your Marriage Trust Account is truly absurd.

6._____ Touch Gently:  So I bet you are looking for another counter measure that can stop a fight in its tracks.  When I am having conflict with my wife…and I am really proud it rarely happens….she always understands how to tame the beast in me.  A gentle touch…even an embrace can cause my heart to melt and any thoughts I had about being upset just dissipate.  Afterwords, whatever we need to discuss is so much easier.  So sometimes it just best to zip the lip and make eye contact and reach out and touch your lover gently telling them, “I am so sorry for my part in this fight”.

7._____ Don’t be a “But” Mouth:  Yep, you read that right.  Now I am not talking about someone’s butt (i.e. their bottom).  Nor am I talking about, “don’t be a butt head”.  Though clearly, I don’t want either you or your better half to act like a butt head or jerk.  Those are fight starters.  We are all about fight stoppers.  What I meant is I want each of you to learn that using the word “but” is a withdrawal from your marriage trust account.  Just don’t use it.  I counsel couples and when I hear them talking to each other in a nice way, I think, “good, they are making some deposits into their love account”.  Then something awful happens….one or both of the married partners will blow it by inserting the word, “but” followed by some kind of backhanded complaint.  If I am keeping score….and I am…the use of the “but” word results in a net loss.

8._____ The Quiet Rule: Don’t you just love it when things are really quiet.  We live in a noisy world.  Too much noise is actually unhealthy physically and emotionally.  And when all that yelling and screaming starts kicking in when the two of you go at it….chaos is not far behind.  So try this!  Utilize what I call the Quiet Rule.  How does it work?  Its simple and can be extremely effective.  When tensions are mounting and the voices are getting louder and reasoning seems to have lost its way, it’s time to invoke the 10 second rule (5 seconds works for some).  Ideally, you and your spouse would have already discussed this tactic (and all the others here) before hand, so one of you just needs to call out, “Quiet Rule”.  Once silence fills the room, take a couple of deep breaths and try to relax a bit.  Then gather up every good angel in your heart and bring the fight to its end. As you have learned, no good comes from fighting.  So use the Quiet Rule to get past all of the crazy emotions running amok.  I had a client that once asked me, “Chris, are you sure 5 or 10 seconds of quiet will work…it seems so short”.  It’s a fair question.  Of course, none of these tactics I am discussing are guaranteed to work. But when you and your spouse are in each other’s faces, with anger spilling over in all directions, you will be amazed at how long 10 seconds will feel like during that time.  It will be like an eternity has passed.  Imagine the scenario of a real fight.  You are arguing with your married partner.  Each of you are chomping on the bit to get your words in…to make your points as forcefully as possible.  It will take a lot of willpower for both of you to shut all this down for 10 seconds.  But when you do, you will have dramatically increased your chances of ending the fight and talking like normal adults.

9._____ Fight like Zombies: Ok, so now you must be thinking I have fallen off into the deep end of insanity.  Sorry to disappoint you, but there is a method to my marital advice madness.  Have you ever watched those Zombie movies and shows?  Did you notice how slow they move.  Well, that is what I want from you and your husband or wife. Keep your gestures and movements toned down. Quick movements lead to the ramping up of a conflict. Remember, we all use to be beasts in the wild.  Quick movements meant danger and fright.  Some of that still resides within us.  What you want to do is bring calm to the situation..  A great deal of our communication with our relationship partner is through our body language.  If you (and/or your partner) are making lots of quick, jabbing motions with your hands or pacing around like the floor is on fire, guess what?  Your temperament will mirror you motions.  Not only will you get yourself all worked up, but your wife or husband will subconsciously mirror what you are doing.  So do the opposite of what couples normally do when they fight.  Move slowly and calmly.  Take away any notions that your body language poses a threat.

10_____Quiet Speak: Ok!  We are on a roll here.  I think you know what this is about.  If I advocate that I want my warring couples to move more slowly, it follows that each of you should talk more slowly.  Dial down the loud volume of your voices because if you don’t, guess what?  The voices will get louder and louder.  The tones will get meaner and nastier.  And when I say, “quiet speak”, what I mean is that the volume of your voices should be slighty less than your normal voice levels.   Remember, we are all sort like animals in our core.  So don’t feed the “demon”.  Call upon the better angels that reside in your hearts and learn to talk more gently, quieter.  Take turns to hear each other out.  The problem that led to the fight won’t be solved if your voices are loud and ugly.

11._____Relationship Reality Check:  It is so easy to fall prey to the seductiveness of fighting.  I mean, sure, we all understand fighting with our lover is a bad thing and we really don’t want to do it.  But sometimes, things are happening in our lives or something happens in the “moment” and then suddenly we get this intense desire to launch an attack. So when a fight is in its “brewing cycle”, both husband and wife need to learn techniques on how to keep things in perspective.  Every second you fight….every moment you wage a war of words…. you are making harmful withdrawals from the marriage trust bank.  So please, when the fight is in its early, brewing stage, call it out.  Just say something like, “Honey, I feel like we are about to go nuclear over this and bankrupt our trust account”.  Or how about this one…. “Sweetheart, let’s do a reality check, is it really worth fighting over this”?

12_____Turn the Other Cheek:  Many of us are partially brainwashed by things we have been told about “strength”.  We watch movies that presumably show us the characteristics of tough, courageous and strong people.  They are usually depicted as physically strong and a person who will not take anything from anyone.  They will fight back and by golly they will win the fight. But these notions are almost always wrong.  In my view, the truly strong ones are those who may be mistaken as meek.  By the way, I heard somewhere that the meek shall inherit the earth….but I digress…..let’s move on.  Look at Rocky Balboa.  Sure, in the ring fight, he stood his ground.  But in the movie, when confronted with conflict or if his girlfriend, “Adrian”, was all upset with him….how did he respond?  Rocky turned the other cheek.  He understood how to take it on the chin and let the other person unwind all of their pent up emotions.  The toughest people in the world are often those who avoid a fight.  Look at Gandhi for example.  He understood the long term wisdom of being patient and non violent.  Eventually those who wronged him came to see the error of their ways.  As I have argued thoughout My Marriage Helper, fighting with your spouse is alway a losing proposition.  It takes two to tango.  Sometimes, it’s best to just be the quite (strong) one.  Eventually, the feelings of wanting to fight will subside and then a time to “really” talk will reveal itself.

13_____Drive Out the Crazy:  Do you ever feel an imposter has temporarily taken over your mind and body?  Just out of nowhere, you feel overwhelmed by stress,anger, even hateful feelings. Well, guess what?  You and millions of other suffer from what I call “the crazies”.  Don’t worry too much, it happens to the best of us.  Events in our lives and a negative mindset can conspire to temporarily hijack your usual normal self.  Now, if it happens all the time and this is getting in the way of having peaceful and constructive dialogue, then the person needs to get some help….maybe therapy.  When you are in the midst of a fight, I want you to try your hardest to get in touch with your “real” feelings.  How do you do this?  First you have to recognize that you may be suffering from the “crazies”.  Don’t worry, the signs will be there.  Your head will spin around like 1000 revolutions a second. You might drool.  Ok, well, maybe those things won’t happen.  But I think you get the picture!  Once you suspect your are not quite right in the mind, you need to tell your spouse, “Look, I am feeling just crazy out of my mind, so let’s me cool down for awhile”.  When you feel out of control or out of your mind, you are in no condition to discuss anything.  Likewise, when you see that your spouse is suffering from the “crazies”, bring an immediate end to the conflict, even if nothing has been resolved.  There will always be another time and another place.

14_____Create a clear moment:  At some point during or after a fight, the couple needs to salvage all of this mess they made for themselves.  What you want to do, once all the smoke clears, is create a CLEAR moment where you both realize and agree, you just “blew it”.  It sounds awful, but it is actually a positive thing.  If you both can arrive at a place where you realize you are both “losers” for participating in a fight, it will help you the next time around when a fight is brewing.  Remember, no one can be declared a winner.  Even if one of the married partners was wrong about something and admits it, don’t take digs at them.  Rather, allow them to save face and self respect in that moment.

15_____Location, Location:  I am sure you have heard that a key thing to consider about a home you are about to buy is “location”.  We all want to reside in a nice area, surrounded by things that make us feel secure.  Well, let’s learn to apply this simple truth to our situation.  Often when a fight breaks out, we get mired down in the same arguments and they often take place in the same room.  It’s as if certain rooms are haunted by memories of old skirmishes.  Well, sometimes you just need to shake things up by changing the environment.  Move to another room to change the vibe. Or go on a walk together. Don’t keep digging a hole for yourselves.  If necessary, call a timeout…cool down…and then agree on where you want to meet up to finish discussing the problem.  Find a setting that is friendly and comfortable and has a positive vibe.

16._____Avoid the Full Court Press:  I love sports and basketball is one of them.  Sometimes, the opposing team will launch into what is called a full court press.  It’s kinda like ganging up on the ball handler. Whoever has the ball is surrounded by several of the opposing team’s players.  Fighting with your spouse can turn into a gang like attack if one of you launch into multiple attacks, bringing up old, worn out topics to bicker about.  Look….I just hate the idea that couples fight.  And I want you to use every tactic on this checklist to avoid and/or stop the battle between the sexes.  I know that can be hard to do, so if you find yourself squabbling, please stick to one fight topic at a time.

17_____Don’t Talk Over Each Other:  What a mess of things a couple will make if they constantly talk over each other.  All that does is heighten the tension.  Take turns making your points.  When it’s your turn to offer your thoughts, discuss them clearly and honestly.  One of the things that seems to be a common complaint among the couples I coach is the “listening problem”.  I think I will need to write an entire post on this topic because it crops up so often when I talk to people who are having problems with their relationship.  One more thing!   When you become aware that you are fighting with your spouse, avoid the temptation to make blanket statements or over generalizations.  If your spouse falls into this trap, just state the obvious, “Honey, please don’t make these blanket statements about me as it is hurtful”.   I call this technique, “Naming the Objection”.  If you have an objection to the way you are being spoken to, then give it a face….call it out in a calm way.

18_____ Don’t Wear Your Camouflage:  Normally, when you go into combat situation, you don your camouflage to hide behind your true intentions.  Well, guess what!  If a fight is coming on with your spouse, your mindset should not be that you are going to wage war and win.  Nope, that is the wrong mindset.  Remember, there are no winners when marital bliss is interrupted by conflict.  Avoid speaking in riddles or hiding behind the truth of what you really are feeling or thinking.  Your spouse is not a mind reader.  Talk calmly and plainly.

19._____ Stay out of the Penalty Box:   Look, if you are like me, you want to win and sometimes you play hard.  Well in the marital fight game, the harder you play, the faster your lose. And when the argument turns heated, never ever hit below the belt.  If you turn to tactics like yelling, aggressive body language, mean spirited accusations, or re-hashing prior arguments, you might as well throw in the towel, because you blew it big time.  I had a client that asked me what was wrong with telling his wife that she was “crazy, neurotic, and boring”.  He argued it was mostly true and that he was trying to toughen her up because sometimes she just got too weepy.  I asked him what would he think if she called him a “self centered, insensitive, @ss”, because that too was mostly true.  I don’t think he understood my point very well as he got a little fussy with me…. so I gave him a refund.  Thankfully, his wife is also seeking coaching advice from me, so I will do my best to help her, help him to stay out of the penalty box.

20_____ Finding Balance: One of the other common complaints I hear about from couples struggling with conflict is that their communications are one sided.  Please go read my lengthy Guide I wrote about “Balanced and Transformative Communications”.  Any time one person is doing all of the talking….that is bad news.  Now, sometimes we have a lot to say.  But if you or your spouse is dominating the discourse, then resentment will grow.  If this is happening to you…meaning you have the short end of the conversation stick….then there are a couple things you can do.  Either you just “call out” the problem, such as, “Bill, you are doing all of the talking”.  Or, another tactic is to enter into the Marriage Cone of Silence. Simply walk slightly away…..look away and say nothing. Let your silence do the talking for a spell.  At some point, the individual will ask why you are not listening and “what is wrong”.   You simply explain that you are not a fan of one sided conversations.

21_____Utilize Communication Feedback Loops:  Don’t you just love these fancy phrases psychologists come up with.  Let me break it down to its essence.  Remember, once you have entered the Fight Zone, your objective is not to win, but to diffuse the heated engagement.  Once tempers have subsided and normalcy has returned, then you should discuss the issue. To eliminate the chaos and slow down the anger, you need to listen carefully to what the person is saying.  Then you repeat it to show you understand.  You are not necessarily agreeing with their statement, you are just showing empathy and understanding.  For this to work properly, both you and your spouse should adopt this communication approach.  When your spouse believes that they are being heard and understood, you are halfway there to bringing an end to the fight. This technique also has the added effect of slowing down the conversation such that neither of your are throwing zingers at each other.  Seek first to understand, so says the wise man.

22_____Create a No Fight List:  This is one of my favorite techniques I encourage married folks to use. If the two of your are truly committed to eliminating fighting from your marriage, then you need to create a No Fight List.  Once the skirmish is over….and hopefully each of you utilized some of the skills discussed here…what you want to do is find a path forward.  You are looking for a solution to whatever brought you to a place where conflict intervened.  Then with that solution or agreement in hand, I want each of you to vow that this “matter” will never again result in a fight.  Write down the topic that was the cause of discord and post it on your bedroom closet door.  That area is private enough where other won’t see it, but visible enough where the two of you can.  Let it stand as a reminder that each of you are committed to getting out of the fight game.

23_____Zip the Lip About Your Fighting Ways: There is not a lot of explanation needed here, though I say that and I recall a case in which one of my clients literally told the world (i.e. Facebook) about her fight with her Ex.  That turned into a disaster.  Please avoid discussing with others any conflict you and your husband or wife may be having.  More often than not, it gets back to the other spouse.  If you really need some emotional support, I understand the temptation to lay it all out there for a friend.  But consider the risk.  And whose to say that your friend knows best.  I am just saying it’s a slippery slope.  I know some folks will still confide in a close friend.  Just make sure they are very close and be careful about acting on someone’s advice until you have researched and thoroughly thought about the matter.  And whatever you do, don’t post it on Facebook or put out a tweet to share with the world.

24._____Don’t Drink and Fight: Well, you have heard about the risks of drinking and driving, right?  Fighting when you have been drinking alcohol is also a terrible idea.  You simply need to observe a strict marital fighting policy of ceasing all communications that have a hint of conflict.  I know…it’s not easy to do that.  The reason why things have gotten out of hand in the first place may be because one or both of you are intoxicated or under the influence.   Somebody has to be the strong one.  It is really hard for a fight to get any traction if one of the marriage partners is sitting on the sideline.  Just don’t engage.  Soon enough, the conflict will lose its legs. Unless you are totally blitzed, just walk way.  Literally take a walk around the block.  Put distance between you and your partner as neither of you are in good shape to have a rational discussion.

_____25. Don’t Succumb to Physical Violence: If you feel threatened in any way or the urge to strike back and become violent is quickly taking grip of your better self, then leave the area of conflict immediately.   If anger is rising inside of you, find a healthy outlet. Just as I suggested above, go for a walk…a long walk.  The same applies if you feel unsafe.  Leave.

_____26. Cry It Out: . Some experts say that crying is for babies and we should deal with our problems like adults.  Well, guess what?  Those that advocate such nonsense must be suffering what I call the “idiot syndrome”. Ok, I totally made that up, but you get the point!  Our emotions can be messy.  When we get upset and a fight breaks out with the one we love, we are dancing on a razor’s edge of emotional turmoil.  Stress is building fast.  We often feel helpless and frustrated and seem powerless to stop the emotional forces at work.  Well, the most mature and honest thing you can do is to allow these emotions to come out.  They certainly want to.  Why are you holding them in?.  And crying is a heck of a lot better than shouting or hitting or throwing things.  Now, I am not in favor of fake crying as a means of manipulation.  Seldom does that work and it’s dishonest and results in a withdrawal from the marital trust account. Crying is a truthful way of telling your spouse your care and you are in pain.

Relationship Fighting Resolution Rating Scale

(Note: This Assessment Scale is only an approximation of how your marriage might stack up in terms of the two of you keeping conflict out of the relationship).  

  • 19 to 26 Items Checked Off:  Congratulations, you must have a pretty darn good marriage because you have learned how to avoid and stop the vast majority of fights in their tracks.  Keep the momentum going and talk about some of the other skills you can still employ.
  • 14 to 18 Items Checked Off:  Good job!  You and your better half are on solid ground. While far from the perfect couple, most others would envy some of the things you do to keep the lid on conflict!
  • 10 to 13 Items Checked Off:  While your marriage is far from falling apart, there is clearly some skills each of you need to master so that you can avoid some of those withdrawals being made to your relationship trust account.
  • Less than 10 Items Checked Off:  Alright!  Help is on its way.  I encourage you and your spouse to make use of this Assessment Tool to realize some significant progress.

Published by

Chris

Known in relationship circles as the, Ex Whisperer, Chris Seiter seeks to help men and women rekindle their love and passion and find their way back to a stable, successful relationship. As owner of the websites MyMarriageHelper.com, ExBoyfriendRecovery.com, and ExGirlfriendRecovery.com, Chris works closely with his clients, helping them see the bigger picture of how to get their ex back, recover from the pain of lost love, and become a better version of who they are.

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