Session 3: Conflict and Fighting: Learning to Both Matter
Topic: Marriage Conference
SESSION 3 — Conflict and Fighting: Learning to Both Matter
CONFLICT IS GOOD!
Loving conflict is the way that two separate adults make sense of not being the same person! Problems arise however when the conflict becomes aggressive and controlling…when we are no longer working toward resolution, but to get our way! Couples often turn conflict into a win/lose game. Who is going to get what they want? At that point many conflicts turn into a fight. A fight is about trying to stop my hurt or your control - by hurting and controlling you!! A fight is about trying to get what I want over you. And these win/lose, hurtful relationships never build closeness.
What can we do to stop a fight, find healing, and work our way back to a win/win resolution? What are the rules of Fight Club?
Go to time-out –
When you are triggered with frustration or anger in a fight, very little that you do will be productive. When you feel the escalation hit, literally take a time-out until you feel more grounded. This is one of the most underutilized tools in conflict resolution. Nothing you do while angry and volatile will be helpful. Trust me!! Just stop the madness!!
Go Birdseye –
Every couple develops a dance in their conflicts, an habitual way in which you have fought since day one! A huge resource to use to begin addressing conflict is to be able to back up, go "Birdseye," and talk about what you are doing. "We are having that same fight!! You know the one where you feel like I'm not careful with our money, and then I feel controlled by you!! Let's back up and think of a new way to handle it.” Also, go Birdseye on yourself!! "Why the heck did that push my buttons so much!??" Just that objectivity can begin to break up fights, or maybe even stop them from happening in the first place!!
Heal the hurt -
Once a fight start starts, solving the problem together often gets lost in the hurtful things we say. Now you're hurt and that's all you care about! Until that hurt is addressed, you will never move forward, and hurt is only addressed by feeling heard and understood. Couples need to take turns hearing one another without argument or dispute... until you both feel like your point (or your pain) is it least seen as valid. Then your spouse gets a turn at being heard by you! Unless you do this, the fight will remain a tug of war, or your hurt will continue to flavor the relationship indefinitely!
Create a win/win -
Since all hurtful fights are a win/lose, obviously, to create better solutions, we need to find a win/win. Win/win is "mutuality". Win/win is a commitment we make to one another that. whatever we do with this conflict, we are both invested in making sure no one can gets left out in the cold. Win/win means that what your spouse needs in the conflict, needs to matter in the solution… And so do you! Once couples believe that their need will matter, the volatility of a fight diminishes. And you will be surprised at the creative mutual solutions you come up with once you stop fighting!!
Tips for preventing the fight from ever happening:
1) Do your homework
Before you launch into an attack, take your own time-out! What is it that you are needing? Why is this hooking you so much?
2) Present a problem and not an attack
Bring a problem to solve...a request to make. Not a blamey jab.
3) Tame your Feelings! (the Fourth “I”)
Reactive impulsive feelings are the number one fight starter. "Be angry but sin not” means feeling something, but learning what it means, and figuring out the problem... rather than just launching into an attack.
4) Ask Questions....Invite Questions (Assumptions Kill)
Rather than just assuming that "look" from your spouse was poison, or their chilly mood is about you, ASK THEM!! "When you said, "Oh...meatloaf again", did that mean you don't appreciate my cooking for you? It felt that way, and I needed to check.”
5) Whether your spouse is open to resolving a conflict or not, you still have power.
The next person who speaks holds all the power in the interaction. Learn loving, truthtelling ways to address your spouse if they are cutting or critical or distant... and unrepentant. Regardless of where they are, your reaction can still be powerful, loving and effective. Remember the baby mobile!!
6) Keep this list nearby.
When the next fight starts, grab it!! It will help you move to the more mature parts of your brain and solve a conflict rather than starting a fight!!
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHTS AND DISCUSSION
1) Talk together from a Birdseye view about what happens in your fusses. Maybe even talk about a recent fight from a birdseye perspective. "You said this...I felt that...So I did xyz." The more we practice this outside of the context of a conflict, the better we will be at staying sane during the actual fight!!
2) Reflect on why you think it's hard for us to just hear and care about our other's hurts instead of defending and wanting to be heard ourselves? Discuss together.
3) Talk together about planning a strategy for how best to take a time-out when things get heated...then a strategy for how to come back together later. Come up with what you can say that announce a need for time-out.
4) Reflect on what your volatile triggers are (what pops your cork!), and why they are so sensitive for you. "When she points out that I'm wrong I blow up...what's up with that!?" Discuss together.
5) Remember... Regardless of how your spouse has acted or spoken to you, your reaction can still be powerful and loving. The next person who speaks holds all the power in the interaction. Reflect on loving, truth-telling ways to address your spouse if they are cutting or critical or distant or defensive.
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