While conflict is normal and healthy in any relationship, it's not a good idea to come out swinging.
Relationships with Terah Harrison
It has been a long day at work, and I’m heading home, hungry and tired. All day, I’ve looked forward to returning to a clean house and relaxing on the couch. While driving home, I think to myself, “My husband better have finally cleaned up the yard like he promised, or I am going to be so mad!”
As I pull up to my house, I see trashcans sitting by the curb and bits of trash floating in grass so long, it sways gently in the late afternoon breeze. With steely resolve, I throw open the front door only to see Jeff sitting on the couch, watching yet another bike race. “Get off your lazy behind, and clean the yard!” I exclaim. He jumps out of his seat, startled and defensive. It is on.
Picture this scenario: It’s now fight night at the Harrison household, and famous fight announcer Michael Buffer gets the crowd ready for the showdown. Buffer introduces the two fighters: “Ladies and gentlemen, fighting out of the blue corner with a professional record of 28 victories, including three that ended with doors slamming, and with only one defeat, is the fighting pride of Grapevine, Texas, Terah ‘Boom Boom’ Harrison! And fighting out of the red corner with a professional record of 28 defeats and only one victory that ended with a long crying session is the challenger and underdog, Jeff ‘Hound Dog’ Harrison!”
Fights are normal in any relationship. They can be about anything, from arguing over an overgrown lawn and piles of dirty dishes to hurt feelings concerning comments your partner made without thinking. Fights often start after resentments and issues have built up over time. It’s healthy for couples to express hurt feelings and resentments. When couples don’t fight, it usually means they’re avoiding conflict, and that leads to loss of intimacy. The key is to know how to make your fight productive and not destructive.
It’s important to understand that there are rules for all types of fighting, whether it’s a professional boxing match or a street fight (for example, no hitting below the belt or scratching the eyes). Couples’ fights also have rules. No. 1 is to not let your frustration build up about what your partner did or said. Think about what is really bothering you, and express it. For example, if the unkempt lawn really bothers you, you could say something like, “I feel really stressed that the lawn looks so bad. Can you please go take care of it?” Attacking your partner’s character (i.e. calling them lazy) will turn the conversation negative — it’s a below-the-belt move. It’s also important to take a break to figure out what you are really feeling. Usually anger is a mask for a deeper emotion, which is often hurt, rejection or disappointment. If you can understand this and communicate it to your partner, it might lead to meeting your deeper needs as well as greater intimacy.
Starting an argument when you are hungry, tired or upset is also always a recipe for disaster. If you catch yourself doing this, or your partner calls you out on it, making a joke about your grumpiness can really lighten the mood. My husband and I call my hunger anger “going primal,” and he knows I need to eat before any major discussions.
Now that you are ready for an argument, “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to rumble!”
Terah Harrison is a licensed professional counselor and owner of Therapeutically Chosen, LLC, where she specializes in relationship counseling for singles and couples as well as matchmaking.