I enjoy reading advice columns. Yesterday, a disgruntled woman complained that Hallmark created the upcoming holiday of Valentine’s Day to remind singles that they are losers. (I’m pretty sure Hallmark wasn’t in existence during the Middle Ages when this day was first set aside to celebrate St. Valentine.) That being said, most people long to be part of a couple. Many succeed but sadly a good number will ultimately face the demise of their love relationship. Differences once deemed adorable, quirky or interesting become problematic as time progresses. While opposites may attract they are rarely the components that solidify relationships. Conflicts arise and fights ensue. Thus begins the breakdown of trust and affection.
Why do couples fight and is there a way they can live without combat? The answer to the second question is emphatically yes. My husband and I live in a quarrel-free environment. That is not to say that we agree on everything. Oh contraire! We rarely agree on anything but we fight about nothing. Let me explain:
There is a distinct difference between disagreeing and fighting. Individuals have different points of view, different ideas and beliefs, opposing feelings and needs. Conflict (two contrasting ideas) is actually healthy and beneficial to relationships. It challenges us on many levels including enabling us to see things from a new perspective, to expand our knowledge and embrace new ideas, to fine-tune our communication and negotiation strategies, and to enable us to put things into the proper perspective. . Great debates arise from conflict and innovative ideas are born. The problem arises when ego takes control: it feeds on insecurity and the need to dominate, to win, to prove their position (and therefore themselves) to be superior. The other party, feeling disadvantaged, struggles to regain balance. And so begins a struggle of power and a benign disagreement escalates into a battle.
Here are some suggestions to diffuse a potential argument:
First and foremost: avoid using the terms “right” and “wrong”. A disagreement is just that: two people sharing opposing views. They rarely have anything to do with being right (leave that to issues of morality, not preferences). The need to be right is based in ego and insecurity. Each party’s position is as valid to them as the others is. Respect that.
Secondly: see things from their perspective to gain a deeper understanding of their position. Ask questions that will clarify the issue. Practice acceptance of their standpoint and validate their feelings.
Thirdly: query, “What is it that you’d like to see happen? How can I help?” (Seek a solution.) Directing your attention to their needs and feelings eases the other person’s concerns of being treated fairly. An investment of kindness and cooperation pays huge dividends.
Finally: show your appreciation and gratitude freely and frequently every day. Those who truly appreciate their spouses are less likely to nitpick insignificant issues. And those who feel valued and appreciated are less likely to initiate an argument. When important matters need to be addressed and resolved, each recalls how blessed they are to have such a devoted spouse that they easily and lovingly put their partner’s needs above their own.
Remember, too, that a fight cannot manifest without the participation of both parties. Refuse to engage and the battle disintegrates and all that remains is a discussion between two people who love each other deeply. Not only is that manageable but productive and rewarding as well. The threat of potentially stressful situations arising between you is squelched, thus enabling both parties to share a safe haven and fully enjoy their sacred union of love. Now go live happily ever after the way God intended.
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