A domestic disturbance awoke me this morning. A young woman and a man were trapped in an emotional back-and-forth, and they were not getting the results they wanted. It affected their communication. It affected their actions.
Now, I am not a therapist, and I don't know if their foundation is safe or toxic, so I can't say if they should stay together to work it out. Sometimes, the flood is lapping at your hems, and you gotta cut out and get to higher ground. You know what I mean? If you are not safe, you need to get out and get help.
But, let's say they are otherwise in a mutually safe and loving, committed relationship. Even couples that go through pre-marital counseling, and are taught how to fight, how to communicate, how to control their actions, can still fall into old patterns of unhealthy conflict.
We all have subconscious ways of coming to the table (or not). Some people are predisposed to running away; others don't back down. Some are silent, some are hair-trigger angry.
How do we get a result we want when we are fighting ours and others' natural tendencies, with heightened emotions?
We may need personal counseling or coaching to get ourselves to a healthier place. It depends on what happened in our earlier lives that lead to unhealthy patterns or behaviors.
But once we have a grasp on why we, ourselves, resort to certain tactics, we can focus on our present relationship and how to make it thrive through what inevitable conflict may come.
Easier said than done, these are a few things we can strive for:
1) Choose words wisely. Others will respond better to respect, love, and honesty. Use "I" statements like "I feel…" and not antagonistic verbiage like "You always…"
2) Remember who this person really is to you in the big picture. It's a "treat others how you want to be treated" situation.
3) Seek to understand the other person's point of view. It's easy to get defensive, but acknowledge that your partner is not the enemy, and you're ultimately on the same side.
4) Remember that on the other side of a hard talk is a better place. You may be scaling a mountain barefoot, but the views from the vista are worth carefully moving forward. You won't always share the same perspective in the end, but you can understand each other better, and give a little slack where your partner needs it.
We're imperfect people, and we will always have issues. But if you find someone who compliments you, wants to work things out and learn how to fight nice, it can be an amazing, even healing thing.