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Creative Combat? Is It Possible In A Life Partner Relationship? - by Sasha LeBaron
Creative Combat Or The Art Of Fighting And Winning At The Same Time
Do you fight to win?
Do you fight fair?
Do you fight just because?
Do you avoid conflict?
Do you play nice too often?
Do you think your relationship is over if you fight?
No matter what the reason conflict appears to be a part of our society, our family relationships and predictably our life partner relationship. Everyone comes from a different background, genetic endowment, family history and life experience. These differences come out when we fight and when we avoid conflict too.
In the life partner relationship there is a tendency to think that conflict is generically bad – no matter where it stems from. This is conflict avoidance in its purest form and many people, including myself, try to win by not engaging in conflict at all! The other end of the spectrum can be seen in certain Mediterranean cultures where loud aggressive confrontations are almost expected if you really care. So whether you come from a background that avoids conflict or embraces it you must learn how to manage it in your life partner relationships.
Constructive vs Destructive
As any two people entwine their lives there must be changes. Some of these changes will be easy, some will create conflict. The most important thing to grasp are ways of expressing anger that allow both partners to be themselves and yet still not harm the relationship and what expressions will do irrevocable damage.
Being able to express emotion without threatening the relationship is a constructive way of dealing with conflict. Telling your life partner that you are angry about specific behaviors or situations is much more constructive than suggesting that there is something fundamentally wrong with the person or running away and avoiding the whole thing.
Example 1 - Constructive
Aaaaaaaaaaaarggggg! I hate it when dirty shoes are left in the hallway and mud gets tracked onto this expensive new rug I just bought! I feel really choked up inside; I feel like I could explode! I want you to know how angry I am right now so that we can come up with a way to avoid this in the future. (Moves shoes to mud room and gets vacuum cleaner.)
Example 2 - Destructive
Aaaaaaaaaaaarggggg! I hate it when you leave your dirty shoes in the hallway! You always mess up the house! Why don't you care about my feelings!! Don't you know I just bought that rug? You're such a slob I can't believe you don't even take off your shoes before coming in the house! (Throws shoes out the door onto the driveway and slams door.)
Permanent vs Temporary
When things "bad" things happen we tend to think of them as permanent, unsolvable and terrible. As you may have guessed this doesn't bring us much hope of a creative solution! When conflict arises remember to focus on the temporary nature of it. As the Buddha said, "Experiences are not the self. They are simply phenomena rising and passing away."
Example 1 - Temporary
After finding the mud on your new rug you feel your anger rising. But instead of getting more and more angry you simply observe the anger, watch it rushing about looking for someone to blame, someone to punish, someone to hurt. Then, when it has run its course you see it passing away leaving a new emotion in its place; maybe frustration ... maybe something else. Either way, you are well on your way to recreating harmony with your life partner just by observing your "knee jerk" reactions and thinking, "I'm sure she won't do it again. She knows how much I like that new rug. I know she had a good reason and I will let her know that I hope it doesn't happen again."
Example 2 - Permanent
After finding the mud on your new rug you feel your anger rising. But instead of letting it go you feed it. You stoke the fires of fury and say things like. "He NEVER listens. He ALWAYS does things like this. I will be stuck with this inconsiderate guy FOREVER." Notice the difference? Option two is much heavier and leaves very few options for constructive relating.
Sticks And Stones
Remember the rhyme from nursery school?
Sticks and stones will break my bones. But words will never hurt me.
Did it work for you? I hope so because it never did for me! And after many years of watching humans interact it seems that words are like arrows. They fly to the heart and wound, sometimes mortally, sometimes without cause, sometimes without even trying. Think of dictators throughout history, they have created immense suffering and death simply by the words they used and the language they chose. So be careful when you are fighting with your loved ones for what you say can sometimes not ever be fully forgotten or forgiven.
Think back to your childhood when you were trying to be part of something and someone misunderstood you. Next thing you knew the whole group is looking at you like a complete idiot. Then the bully says, "You're such an ________!" and everyone laughs. How did you feel? I know how I felt. I wished I could hide under a flat rock and never come out! And I never forgot or really forgave. So be VERY careful not to dig, gouge, bite, scratch, poke, insult, berate, abuse or otherwise use words as weapons with your life partner. He or she will not forget and your relationship will be effected, one way or another!
Example 1 - Words As Weapons
"You are so stupid. How could you not remember that I just bought that rug? Are you totally brain dead? I can only think so after you pull a stunt like that! No wonder you don't have any real friends!"
Do you think the above will build your relationship? Or will it cause a rift to open and continue to open till you have nothing left but bitterness and gall and you wonder what you ever saw in this person?
Example 2 - Words As Bridges
"Honey I am feeling really angry right now. I just bought that rug and now it has mud on it. You normally don't bring your muddy shoes in the house. Is there something going on? I know I track sawdust in here sometimes so I guess its sort of fair. Is there anything I can help you with so it doesn't happen again?"
Now you may not feel like extending the olive branch right at the moment but if you refrain from insults and attacking language you will get to the real reason for the thing that triggered your anger much faster and make sure it doesn't happen again. Because in the end we are trying to grow together with our life partner not apart.
Have fun with it.
Take the proverbial breath(s) before saying anything to your life partner when you are angry.
Watch your anger for a while. I bet you it will change to something else if you let it!
Avoid insults and harsh words. They are the tiny cuts that lead to the "death of a thousand cuts". You may "get away with it" for many years and then wonder why your life partner suddenly leaves one day with "no reason".
Look for areas where you have done a similar thing in the past and use them as ways to change your view or attitude about what is conflicting you.
Don't give up! The process of learning creative combat is a lifelong one and I can tell you from personal experience that it does get better with practice!
To your life partner success!
P.S. As for avoiding conflict ... don't. Because it will always find you eventually and if you are ready it will make your life partner relationship stronger after its gone!
Sasha LeBaron is a retired fire fighter, coach and author of two books as well as many articles on the specific techniques and tools involved with finding your perfect life partner. He lives in the gulf islands of BC, Canada with his perfect life partner and a large fluffy cat. Learn how you can find your perfect life partner in as little as ten minutes per day. Click here