I often listen to many couples tell me about their fighting practices with each other. Some even tell me that they think they are pretty good at it. Occasionally people tell me they want their partner to improve so they can have better fights. People, and I mean a lot of people assume that fighting is just a natural and expected part of being in a relationship. Everyone fights, right?
As a Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in working with couples and who is in a successful relationship herself, I can answer that question with a certain amount of authority. No. Everyone does not fight. Everyone does not stand his or her ground and repeat his or her position and defend that position until the cows come home. No not everyone does this with their partner.
But all of us watch the news, television sit-coms and reality programs and see couples fighting all the time. It seems like the norm. We watch it frequently, so we accept that it’s just what happens. Couples may have the false impression that when a person stands up for himself or herself in a relationship they are being assertive. There may even be a short lived benefit to saying something firm to your partner. But there is also the wreckage; hurt feelings, being misunderstood, cut off from your loved one and alone.
You may be wondering to yourself how people communicate if they don’t get firm and assertive with the other. How do they get their point across when the other person isn’t listening? You may even wonder if people just roll over and let their partner walk all over them so there won’t be a fight. It’s hard to imagine exactly what communication could look like if you have been spending your relationship years locked in battle.
I know this pattern. I learned this in the family I grew up in. When people got their feelings hurt or felt wronged by someone they verbally attacked the offender. “Why did you drink my milk?” Then there was the retort. “Because, I needed it for my cereal.”
“Well you are selfish!” “You are selfish!” This back and forth was so familiar to my ears and my way of communicating it took a lot of work to get out of the habit of blaming the other person for my difficulties.
And that’s what has to happen. Each person in a relationship has a responsibility to the other to be good to the other. If you blame the other for something you are throwing down a gauntlet saying “The fight is on!”
Do you really want to make your beloved the bad guy? Really, there are other ways to get your needs met. Learn them. Unplug from a destructive pattern. It just plain feels better. I know.
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