Marriage can't be all romance and babymaking all the time now can it ladies?
If we allowed 'outsiders' a sneak peek into our marriage, at some point or another they'd get a real show. And we're not talking a sexy show (not this time, anyway.) We're talking a loud, yelling, eye-rolling, maybe-even-some-cursing argument. We may not be proud of this battle behavior, but these fights happen. And when they do, it's good to be prepared in knowing when to surrender. Sometimes you have to table the discussion for a bit, or simply take the high road and say, “You're right. I'm sorry." ✌️
We talked to our love expert, Vienna Pharaon, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Mindful Marriage & Family Therapy in New York City to get some perspective on when we should end that terrible fight and strategies to do so.
1. Take an adult time out.
Either one of you can call it, but whoever asks for the time out has to schedule the new time that you come back together to discuss the issue. Time outs are important because once the fight has escalated to a certain point, continuing to talk (or fight) serves no healthy purpose. Make it clear that this is important to you, you are not abandoning your partner, and that you will be coming back to this conversation at another time.
2. Translate the content you're fighting about into the emotions behind it.
While you're on the time out consider what it is you're actually fighting about. “I hate that you leave the towel on the bed" might actually be “I feel really unimportant when you leave the towel on the bed. It makes me feel like I don't matter to you." We then turn that into “I want to feel heard and prioritized."
3. Think about where and when you have felt this way before.
What's the wound that's getting triggered? Forget the content of the fight for a second and focus on the hurt—did you feel unimportant or unheard growing up? With whom has that played out before?
Think about what it means to you to be right, and what it means to you to be wrong. What are the messages you received growing up from family, friends, and society etc. around being right and wrong, and how does that impact the way you fight in your relationship?
It's important to understand what it is we're avoiding when we're pushing back on being “wrong". What happens if we're wrong? Knowing that helps inform us as to why we fight back on it so much. If “wrong" means we're a failure, than the drive behind “winning" the fight winds up being pretty strong.
People who have a hard time backing down from being “right" generally struggle with their own narratives around what it means to them to lose. They're not trying to avoid hearing their partner, they're trying to avoid hearing their own negative narrative that says “you're a failure" (or something along those lines.)
4. Write it out.
After you've taken some time to reflect, write out what it is you want your partner to understand after you've considered #2 and #3. Complete this quick exercise by answering these statements:
“I'm hurting because I feel _________."
“This reminds me of when I felt this way with/when _________."
“What I really want is to be/feel _________."
5. Listen to understand instead of listening to respond.
When you come back to discuss the issue or topic at hand, be prepared to do it calmly. Take turns talking. When your partner is talking, practice active listening; really focus on what the other person is saying. Don't let yourself get distracted by other thoughts in your head. Don't try to prepare a rebuttal. Make eye contact. Feel free to summarize what you heard when they are done speaking or ask any questions to clarify points you didn't fully understand.