One of the most important pieces of the puzzle of our lives are relationships. We all enter adulthood a bit wounded from things we bring with us from our childhood and teen years. Insecurity and vulnerability and even damage done by others, loved ones who may not have intended to hurt us, is some of the baggage that we have chosen to carry with us into new relationships.
The most harmful is often what we learned as children and that is our style of warfare.
Learning to hone our fighting skills from sparring with siblings and friends as children, does little to prepare us for grownup arguments. What worked pretty well as kids simply will not transfer to adult relationships. Harm caused when our attacker is someone we love as an adult seems much more personal and hurtful and can have lasting consequences.
As children we had little restraint from verbal attacks that aimed at the very core of our opponents, in these matches the winner was declared by one party retreating, outlasting your opponent or by parents intervening and refereeing.
If we don’t consciously learn to curb the harmful nature of our attacks, we not only cause temporary damage, believing that all will be forgotten and forgiven, but when repeated again and again it will damage the foundation of the relationship. As we talked about in last week’s post, your foundation must be strong so that you can continue to build upon it together.
As adults there are no parents around to intervene or force us to make up. We may say things that we really don’t mean to say and do things to hurt the other person simply so that we can be declared the winner. The truth is that if we love the person and want to work on building a strong foundation we will never win by fighting with reckless abandon. Everyone loses when someone is hurt.
Some of my coaching clients will reason that they don’t mind fighting because making up is so much fun and that may be true in the short term but working to creating a loving relationship with a strong foundation is much more important for the long term. Having a refuge to return to is an amazing feeling and knowing that no matter what you are safe and truly loved is what an extraordinary relationship is all about.
So where do we begin to change if we feel that the way we wage war needs some work?
As always the first step is awareness. During the next argument instead of being pulled into the fray step back and notice what’s going on. Take a moment to think about what the fight is about, so many times we get so caught up in the moment that the real issue we are defending is lost and forgotten.
Practicing the art of self restraint can keep a simple disagreement from quickly escalating into a full blown encounter. Allow yourself to notice if you are moving away from the topic of disagreement.
The next step would be to have a strategy. If the ultimate goal is to achieve a particular outcome do you think that the route you are allowing yourself to go down is the right one to achieve the outcome you desire? Is your strategy to win or is it to simply talk without listening so that there is no option for compromise or room for empathy for your partner’s opinion?
Learning to edit yourself would be an great next step. No matter what you believe, the truth is that no one is always right and just because you believe something does not make it true. Allowing criticism and hurtful words to come out of your mouth unedited causes damage and is completely unnecessary. So hit the edit button before saying something hurtful.
There are many reasons why we feel the need to argue, too many to go into here, but there are just as many options to learn to fight without damaging your relationship and many of those answers are simple and easy to apply. I will provide some insights in the coming weeks and months as we journey together.
The point that I hope everyone takes away is that we have a choice, we can claim victory by taking our opponent down while winning some small battles along the way without realizing that we are losing the war when we have destroyed the foundation we need to create an extraordinary relationship.