Love, Arguments, and the Art
                   of Relationship Building


   How to Make Your Relationship Stronger

    ...
This change just in the moment there is an all-out war, and countless negative
aspects and incidents are aired at the most...
A structure is defined as: “agreed upon ground rules for handling differences
and conflict well.” Since few people have le...
Whether you raised the complaint, or you are feeling defensive, criticized, put down,
or any other negative feeling, it ta...
whatever you do, affects the other. You are co-creator and have an important say in
how the fight goes, and your silence a...
8. Keep your childhood grievances out of this fight.
As a rule of thumb, you can assume that, if you feel anger, it has to...
9. Use "I" statements (as in, "I feel annoyed when you leave your things
       around for me to pick up"), rather than mo...
“Fair Fighting For Couples”
© Creative Conflict Resolutions INC
 http://www.creativeconflicts.com
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Love, Arguments, And The Art Of Relationship

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Love, Arguments, And The Art Of Relationship

  1. 1. Love, Arguments, and the Art of Relationship Building How to Make Your Relationship Stronger By Having "Positive" Confrontations. This is a book extract about the role of conflict in our lives as a tool for learning about ourselves and about the others we care about. In any personal relationship of value, conflict is the master which pushes us to more understanding, more patience and more connection. If you have been engaging in too many destructive conflicts that have soured your relationships and left you lonely and bitter… Are you pretty sure of how to negotiate some relationship aspects with a loved person? And, being pretty sure that keeping silent and sulking will not help either? You have very few possible responses to interpersonal conflict: • You either escalate, fighting fire with fire, which is totally opposite to the goals of a love relationship and destroys it; • Or play dead and respond with all kinds of avoidance or passive aggressive behavior (and thus you practically defect from your role in the relationship.) • Or you learn how to negotiate change and differences with your loved one. If you are confused and afraid of asserting your needs, because of not knowing how to do it without damaging the relationship, here is some help to restore balance and hope. How to Grow Stronger Relationships By Fighting With Love And Respect There are many aspects of daily life where differences occur. You can accept them as part of normal human interaction, or see them as signs of disaster and deny them. At the beginning of a personal relationship, we tend to assume that we know everything about the other. That which we don’t know, we think, will not bother us. People tend to conceal their true feelings, in order to not challenge or disrupt this belief. “Fair Fighting For Couples” © Creative Conflict Resolutions INC http://www.creativeconflicts.com
  2. 2. This change just in the moment there is an all-out war, and countless negative aspects and incidents are aired at the most heated moment. A relationship will not be truly intimate unless each partner knows what the other one is thinking and feeling. This means accepting that both parties need a means for bringing differences of opinion out into the open, and so prevents one of them from forming the habit of "suffering in silence." Speaking up, finding out what's wrong, and then coming to a joint decision on what to do about it are signs of a healthy relationship. In the many households we grew up in we never learned how to negotiate differences, and so, as grown ups we have to learn those skills in the most painful way, if we want to preserve and be nurtured by a good relationship. This principle applies to all kinds of conflicts you can have in a marriage. It does not matter what you fight for, there are plenty of issues: The list of possible issues to fight about is endless. Given that anything can be used to confront the other to finally get some recognition from that person, willingly or not, this list is only a short one. However, it includes some of the favorite daily life issues people can choose to fight about. • Control struggles (who's in charge) and how decisions are made • Degree of reciprocal control or independence • Treatment of in-laws and significant relatives • Sex: how, when, why, by whom, varieties • Money: earning, managing, saving and spending • Individual time versus shared time • Social life: shared goals and methods of socializing • Communication styles and attribution of meaning to behaviors • Children: having, rearing, sharing child care tasks • Household maintenance and responsibilities • External influences: gambling, alcohol or drug use • How to express feelings: isolation, jealousy, emotional dependency, etc. What Is Fair Fighting? Fair fighting is a respectful, structured way of confronting each other on important issues that are causing open or hidden conflict. It is a method for handling and resolving the differences of opinion that inevitably occur between spouses or partners. The basic idea is to provide an alternative to “dirty fighting” which uses reciprocal blaming, yelling, accusing and humiliating the other, in order to win or be “right.” In fair fighting, you can defend your ideas while recognizing your partner’s needs! “Fair Fighting For Couples” © Creative Conflict Resolutions INC http://www.creativeconflicts.com
  3. 3. A structure is defined as: “agreed upon ground rules for handling differences and conflict well.” Since few people have learned a set of rules or a structure of conversation to handle such matters well, very clear rules can give couples a road map for getting through discussions that they are otherwise likely to escalate into dirty tricks conflict. The structure of simple rules brings a degree of safety to a conversation that allows for greater openness and less negative effects. TIP: It is better to acknowledge beforehand that there are some things that you can disagree on (opinions on politics, personal interests, and beliefs), but other things must be worked out (how to raise the children, how to spend money, how you would like to be treated, future planning, etc.) Those very differences about important issues, if they go unacknowledged, will fester inside and produce disappointment and anger. Anger must be recognized and expressed or it will build up. Make a commitment to use the rules of fair fighting. Schedule arguments ahead of time when you feel the pressure building up. You should choose a time when you will not be distracted by family members, guests or television, and when both of you are relatively relaxed. Sit face to face and keep eye contact at the same level. Make a contract to discuss the issue of concern only, and agree to avoid those ways of acting that sabotage problem solving. You could say: “People already know how to fight! Why practice fair fighting?” Because what people call fighting is what many couples do: they engage in "dirty" fighting, which consists of mutual blaming and accusations, explosive anger, and not listening to each other, but trying to overpower them. With the objective of controlling, humiliating or winning over the other, all kinds of negative things are said that are difficult to retrieve. The results are very sad, because repetition of this kind of fight, which is inevitable when it is not resolved, will sour the relationship. Fair fighting is designed to deal with issues that bring conflict without destroying the relationship. Principles of Fair Fighting For Couples 1. Accepting your own share of the responsibility for the problem: In a fair fight, you both have to take responsibility for your participation in what created the conflict and what you are doing to escalate or solve it. To fight fair entails accepting your part of responsibility. There are not pure victims or pure victimizers; we are both agents doing different roles at different times. “Fair Fighting For Couples” © Creative Conflict Resolutions INC http://www.creativeconflicts.com
  4. 4. Whether you raised the complaint, or you are feeling defensive, criticized, put down, or any other negative feeling, it takes both parties to construct a fight! All your behaviors: if you feel sad, angry, threatened, shut down, or resentful, not one of those feelings are predetermined; you are making those active choices. It’s your choice to accumulate resentment, to clam up to make the point that you are disgusted, or to talk and solve the problem. Do you want to be right, and prove that the other side is a miserable person, once again? Or do you want to understand, accept and resolve? 2. You are always part of the process, and responsible for its fairness. Redefine the purpose of a fight. It has nothing to do with a neighborhood brawl. Here and now, this is a love relationship and your co-purpose is to find a mutually respectful agreement, NOT TO WIN. During a fight, emotions are let loose and anger is expressed by shouts and harsh words. All the images of the past, which told us how to fight to win, come out in the open and push us for a “win over the other and prevail.” You can have the impression that the person you are is not seen or worse, is not respected. You could get to the perception that all is wrong: the other person is the wrong person, and you are in the wrong relationship. It helps to chart on a big sheet of paper the framing of the conversation as: “we are here to understand each other’s side, not to conquer or destroy.” Even if this is your last fight with this person, do it with respect and class. 3. Disputes over things you care deeply about are inevitable: Accept that sometimes a confrontation is unavoidable, and has to be dealt with. Fair fighting is always about getting your grievances out in the open, in a way that nurtures understanding and growth. Choosing to practice fair fighting and not collecting grievances to later play revenge with, is showing respect for the other. Frustration, anger and sadness are signals that point to the needs for change and reassessment within the relationship. 4. Both parties are co-learning: Because you both agreed to the rules of engagement of fair fighting, nobody has to be victimized. This is a relationship that is the most important for each other, so “Fair Fighting For Couples” © Creative Conflict Resolutions INC http://www.creativeconflicts.com
  5. 5. whatever you do, affects the other. You are co-creator and have an important say in how the fight goes, and your silence also counts. Even though you may feel pretty ignored, remember that you have an impact on the other person. Use this lever to express yourself, and in doing so, you show your trust in the relationship and its development. 5. Learn to respect yourself: Don't collect discontent and hurts: Gather your courage and make a rule for both to bring up whatever dissatisfaction or frustration you experience, fast. What you keep secret destroys any confidence on the fact that your relationship is able to work out the differences. It extends its dark cloud over more and more areas of your relationship until there is no more room for trust. Only contempt survives. If you collect grievances, then they will pop up at the moment of fighting, all together, making a sad parade of past complaints that will undermine the trust of the other. If everything is rotten, why bother? 6. Bring up only one problem issue at a time: If you ask for two or more things at the time, there is no possibility to develop a good argument about the first one, and understand each other’s side. You are sabotaging your own efforts and confusing your partner by juggling several problems at the same time. Don’t overkill: You want a resolution to one problem at a time, assert your needs concerning this, and only this one problem. Wait for another confrontation if you have another complaint to solve. This is the reason for having a method with which to vent your differences. With fair fighting you can process issues as they come. 7. Watch out for past and unresolved complaints to pop up: You have been repressing some anger about past incidents, but this is not the time to vent about everything, or to use past episodes, now resuscitated at your convenience, into the present discussion. If you have a long list of past grievances, (with the attached resentment) write them down. Keep the list at your desk for several days. Then prioritize it. Discard petty things and come up with a list of real issues that you want resolved and buried. This is the list to be used when doing fair fighting. Remember that you need to keep this conversation focused on the issue you agreed to deal with, and exclude all others. “Fair Fighting For Couples” © Creative Conflict Resolutions INC http://www.creativeconflicts.com
  6. 6. 8. Keep your childhood grievances out of this fight. As a rule of thumb, you can assume that, if you feel anger, it has to do with what is happening in the current moment. In contrast, if you feel rage, it is probably triggered by some situation in your past, when some relative did a thing similar to the one your spouse did to you now. It is useful to re-think that, even when your spouse acts like your mother or father, they are different and deserve to be treated in a different way. Please, identify where from this impulse is coming: were you systematically humiliated and put down as a child? If you discover that you are still reacting to any behavior from your partner as if he or she is one of your parents bent on controlling and humiliating you, STOP! Take a deep breath and focus on the differences between this person, (here and now) and the adult from your past (then and there) …. This person has been chosen by you to be your support and loving companion, right? Be aware again that the optimal game for couples is cooperation and not competition to win. The TENDENCY TO PROVE THAT YOU ARE RIGHT, AND THE OTHER IS TOTALLY WRONG, AND SO DESERVES TO BE HUMILIATED, can be very strong. And very destructive! Rules of Engagement For Fair Fighting (Ready to print, frame and use) 1. No physical violence, whatsoever. 2. Maintain mutually respectful behavior. Do not call names or accuse your partner of lying. Do not say what you believe your partner is thinking. Each person speaks for himself or herself. 3. Avoid psychological descriptions of the other person ("Every one of your friends says you are a big spender"). Avoid laying guilt or accusations of bad faith. 4. Make eye contact, verbally acknowledge the other's feelings (apologizing when appropriate), and ask questions to be sure each has understood the other's feelings. 5. Repeat verbatim what was said by the other to confirm that what is said is what was understood. 6. If anger escalates, take a brief time-out (from half an hour to no more than 24 hours) and state a definite time to return to the issue. 7. If anger returns when the discussion resumes, use another specified timeout. 8. Be specific. State your problem and why it bothers you. After you have stated the problem, your partner states his or her point of view on the issue, and you do reflective listening. Then, restate the differences between what is offered to you and what you need. “Fair Fighting For Couples” © Creative Conflict Resolutions INC http://www.creativeconflicts.com
  7. 7. 9. Use "I" statements (as in, "I feel annoyed when you leave your things around for me to pick up"), rather than more blaming "you" statements ("You are such an inconsiderate slob"). 10. Accept that you two will inevitably disagree. Realize that this is normal and it does not jeopardize the relationship. We are assuming here that both have agreed on the main values and big issues when deciding to marry. 11. If you are having trouble coming to an agreement or compromise, agree on an intermission, from an hour to a week. 12. Stick to the agenda of the current fight, and agree from the beginning NOT to raise other grievances from the past. The fight is over when: • Both parties agree to a compromise satisfactory for both; • Or reach a mutual agreement that the fight is over, and no agreement is possible; both agree to disagree, but at least they know more about their reciprocal positions. • And both have given each other time and attention to express the grievance! This is a big step ahead and you should feel proud of offering a respectful ear to your partner’s complaints. Ready To Discover How To Steer Your Relationship On The Right Path? http://www.positiveconflicts.com/FairFightingForCouples “Fair Fighting For Couples” © Creative Conflict Resolutions INC http://www.creativeconflicts.com
  8. 8. “Fair Fighting For Couples” © Creative Conflict Resolutions INC http://www.creativeconflicts.com

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