Relationship Talk & Fight StylesApr 30, 2021
Communication is not just talking—it’s listening too. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason! Communication is also both verbal and non-verbal. Communication is about fostering mutual understanding—it allows us to know and be known.
Mutual understanding is what enables couples to operate effectively—communication is like oil in an engine. This does not mean that you will always get along—you will get it right sometimes and wrong others. In fact, you will disagree, you will get upset with each other, and you will fight. Be sure to set that expectation fairly. When you start fighting, know that your marriage is not over. In fact, fighting provides many opportunities to grow together.
Conflict: Our style of fighting and the way we deal with conflict often mirrors what we saw in our homes as we grew up. There are a variety of ways we can respond during times of conflict in our marriages. Here are just a few:
Freeze 'em Out
This style of handling conflict leaves everyone cold. No one wants to talk about real issues or concerns so everyone backs off, detached, holding hurt and anger inside. This leads to withdrawal from the relationship.
Let the Bullets Fly
In this "cowboy style" of conflict, everyone squares off and starts shooting verbal bullets. Intimidation is the tool used in this style. Feelings are expressed with anger and feelings are hurt. A great deal of damage is done.
Let Me Out of Here
This style is all about running. It can take various forms: a trip to the bar, to the shopping mall, home to parents, drugs, working incessantly, or anything else that creates a temporary escape. However in this case, when the person returns, the problem remains.
I Don’t Know What Happened
Sadly, some people explode and express their anger with physical violence. A verbal assault escalates to a physical attack. Afterward, the one who exploded will often say, “I don’t know what happened.” But the damage is already done.
Fighting Fair – Rules of Engagement
If we are going to communicate well, trust each other, and resolve conflict, we need to learn to fight fair. Our goal is to establish some agreed upon “rules of engagement.” As you enter into discussion to resolve conflict and tension in your relationship, here are some suggested guidelines:
- Begin with affirmation - verbally express your love and commitment to your spouse.
- Be willing to take blame - acknowledge how you have contributed to tension in your marriage.
- Express hurt, not hostility - communicate your hurt honestly, but not in anger.
- Make direct statements - hints and offhand remarks accomplish little. Say what you mean.
- Avoid “never” and “always” statements - seek to be accurate, truthful, and realistic in what you say. Don’t say, “You never come home on time,” but rather say, “I feel sad (or hurt) when you are late.”
- Use "I" instead of "You" - "You" comes across as accusatory. It causes the other person to be on the defensive. "I" is a much more effective approach because it invites the other person into a conversation that moves toward mutual understanding.
Discuss and write down some “rules of engagement” when it comes to fighting and resolving conflict. One of the best ways to think of it is "When [blank] is present our fights are better. And "When [blank] is present our fights get worse."
Some examples are included below to get you thinking.
- We will avoid “never” and “always” statements.
- We will give each other space to process if needed…”push pause.”
- We will not bring up the past.
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✔️ Discuss the Pros and Cons of your fight style
✔️ Build a list of "Rules of Engagement" to better communicate and fight fair
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