Are You Fighting A Good Fight?
Let’s be honest when it comes to relationships there are fights and then there are fights….
A fight can be a simple disagreement over which restaurant to go to, or it can be vicious and volatile doing great damage to the person on the receiving end, and your relationship too.
Building a healthy relationship requires having some courageous conversations to understand what is important to each other, what your expectations are of each other and your relationship and how you go about navigating this throughout the lifetime of your relationship.
So how do we ensure we fight a good fight and not let conflict destroy our relationship and each other in the process?
1. What would you say makes for an ugly fight?
A fight becomes ugly when we are abusive in any way (physically, mentally, emotionally, verbally, sexually, financially), when words and actions cut deep (e.g. saying hurtful things), accusing our partners of something and not being willing to hear/see their perspective, stonewalling (i.e. shutting your partner out with silence), passive aggressive behaviour, unwilling to resolve conflict and being intentionally aggressive or confrontational.
2. How does this affect our relationships?
Ongoing toxic and volatile situations can have a long-term negative impact on your relationship resulting in breaking each other down. It will also have an impact on one’s mental health and well-being. By constantly experiencing stress and anxiety, constantly being “on guard” or in a reactive/defensive state, it will erode your self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence and in extreme cases, possibly even suicidal thoughts and depression. Your relationship consists of much more than trying to keep score or get the upper hand so it’s important to intentionally want to resolve conflict and to choose your battles wisely.
3. How can couples avoid being ugly to each other?
A healthy relationship entails two people retaining their individuality, but at the same time coming together to co-create their relationship (i.e. the us, we and ours). This means that you are free to be yourself, free to do things on your own without your partner (within established boundaries) and to voice your views, ideas and opinions even if you don’t agree with each other.
Every single one of us wants to feel loved and accepted, most importantly by our partner. Knowing that out partner has our backs and that we can rely and depend on them is what helps build emotional safety and connecting in a relationship. It is important to constantly communicate with each other understand what is contributing to negative remarks and behaviours which can end up breaking each other down instead of building each other up. You should be able to rely on each other for emotional support, encouragement during the tough times, and to celebrate each other’s successes too.
This means having clear established boundaries as to what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior (e.g. no matter how bad things get we will not swear at each other, be abusive or disrespectful) and upholding those boundaries every day. Treat each other with the most basic of human rights – the right to safety, dignity, respect and kindness. Make your relationship and each other a priority and be intentional about how you are showing up for each other every day. Take responsibility for your own behaviour and actions.
4. I recently witnessed someone say, “you’re nothing, you have nothing” to their partner yet the next day, they were lovey-dovey, and it was so strange. Would this pass as a toxic relationship?
This type of behaviour can become toxic over the long term if not managed. In the heat of the moment when emotions are high, we can say hurtful things without realizing the emotional impact that have. In this instance I would suggest the couple discuss their behaviour and the impact these words can have on the person on the receiving end.
Forgiveness is part of the conflict process however is someone continues to behave in a way that their partner has asked them not to – this is an active choice and total disregard for your partner, their feelings and their needs in the relationship.
5. Would you say fighting in a relationship is normal? If so, what is an indication of a ‘normal fight’?
It is unrealistic to expect that you are always going to agree on everything 100% of the time. You are two unique individuals who have had different upbringings and therefore will have different perspectives and views on life. Embracing your differences and seeing them as ways to compliment each other rather than clash with each other will go a long way. One of you may be good at organising and planning while the other is good at being spontaneous.
This can play out as one being controlling, and the other being disorganised which is not necessarily true. You can both benefit from these differences by learning to leverage each other’s strengths in different situations and learn from each other how to be a little bit more organised/planned and a little more spontaneous at times too. In some situations, you may need to agree to disagree and that’s ok. Your relationship consists of much more than trying to keep score or get the upper hand so choose your battles wisely.
There are 5 different pillars through which we transact (engage) when it comes to our relationship – functional, emotional, physical, financial and sexual. One partner may be stronger in some areas and or speak a different love language to the other and knowing what these traits look like can go a long way in creating safety and a nurturing relationship. One partner may express care by doing things for their partner while the other expresses care through physical touch and affection.
If we did not know these traits are expressions of love and care, we can assume our partner is selfish or does not care. Communicating our wants and needs in a way that is not demanding, but rather lets our partner in on what is important to us and how it makes us feel builds a strong connected and nurturing relationship.
Paula Quinsee: Relationship Coach, author and Speaker specializing in creating healthy relationships at home and in the workplace to co-create a more human connected world and positively impact people’s lives. Paula is also a passionate advocate for mental health and Gender Based Violence, an international and Tedx speaker and author of two self-help guides: Embracing Conflict and Embracing No. More info: https://paulaquinsee.com/