• Tana Daughtrey

Fighting under the mistletoe

Updated: Mar 29, 2019

It's the most wonderful time of the year With the kids jingle belling And everyone telling you be of good cheer It's the most wonderful time of the year

It's the hap-happiest season of all

Andy Williams

It’s the holidays. It’s nice to think it’s such a wonderful time, but reality is that we are not always having a joyous time. Traffic is terrible, people are flooding the stores, there are crowds everywhere, and the delivery trucks keep rumbling down the roads dropping off presents for the holidays. Lots of people are sick, smiles look forced, people working in retail look strained, and Christmas music continues to be played loudly at all the malls and retail outlets.

Joy does not abound every moment. It’s not unusual for couples to fight more this time of year because of all the tension and pressure of the holidays and year end. That’s my focus of this week. Fighting between couples…how to fight leading to an easier make up.

During the holidays, everyone is tense. Tempers are short, and they flare easily. I’ve seen more than one couple out whispering loudly at one another in those tones that tell you don’t listen, this is an argument.

Everyone loses their cool occasionally. What do you remember to do even though you lose your cool? Fight fair. Fair Fighting is the term you hear, and to have a mature relationship it’s necessary to learn. What does that mean? It means what it says. It’s treating your partner with love, respect and honor. Couples naturally fight at times. Fighting unfairly in the manner I describe below is a way that tends to destroy most intimate relationships whether the people stay together or not. It destroys the trust and the love when one party treats the other disrespectfully. What are the absolute No-Nos of fighting?

1. Do not criticize your partner. A fight starts when one or both people have a problem or complaint. It’s fine to tell your spouse, “I don’t like finding the toilet paper roll on backwards.” It is inappropriate to call your spouse an idiot or some other ugly name because you have a complaint. It’s disrespectful.

2. When your spouse states a complaint, do not be defensive. It’s hard not to be defensive, but if your spouse complains about the toilet paper, do not respond with… “well, you never clean the shower.” That only escalates the argument. To fight fair, you must acknowledge your spouse’s complaint. It is real to them so provide them the respect of listening without defensiveness.

3. Do not Stonewall your Spouse with Silence. Stonewalling is about sitting in silence or giving monosyllabic responses. This denigrates your spouse and your spouse’s feelings.

4. Do not speak contemptuously. Never call your spouse names like dummy, stupid, or things even worse. The other person is the person you say you love. To call then names is abusive. It is a statement that the relationship is in deep trouble if you and your spouse are seriously contemptuous to one another. It’s solely my opinion, but I do not think you seriously say words of contempt to your partner repeatedly and expect the love to last.

5. Do not set out to win. It is important when you get involved in an argument with your spouse that you realize a fight with your spouse is not a game to win. This is a disagreement where it is important to resolve the grievance by compromise. Set out to obtain a better understanding of your spouse’s complaint or issue. Rather than win, the desire is to resolve the conflict in a manner to obtain greater closeness one to another.

6. Respect your partner if she or he cries during the fight. It is important to respect your spouse and not look at crying as a weakness. Crying is an emotion that in some people is associated with anger as well as sadness.

So, what do you do if you have a fight? First, as hard as it may seem, do NOT go into the fight thinking you are right, and they are wrong. What you know is your spouse sees a situation one way. You may see it another, but that happens every day with people everywhere. There is no way if you want to work out your marriage or relationship that you should go into a fight believing you are right, and they are wrong.

Second, listen to your spouse. Most people get turned off because their spouse sounds angry, listen to see if you can determine what is the underlying message and reason for the argument. Well, let’s suggest listening to the words, the message is important. Hear your spouse’s message.

The next and most important step is how do you respond. A good way to initially respond is to take your spouse’s message, summarize it and repeat it back to him or her. One of the important things to your spouse is knowing that he/she is heard. Make sure you ask your spouse, and your spouse confirms for you that you correctly summarized his or her grievance.

Respond to your spouse calmly and without resorting to statements that are defensive or sarcastic. I’ve coached more than one person who said, “all I said was, Oh, Really.” Said sarcastically this statement can be pouring gasoline on the fire of the fight.

You can imagine it’s not good to say things like “you always” or “you never.” These are words to be deleted from your vocabulary during a fight.

Stick to the current argument. As I’ve heard Iyanla Vanzant say, refrain from being a historian. Don’t bring up every transgression you think your spouse has ever committed. It is not fair to talk about events or situations not part of the current discussion.

Another final caution is tempting as it may be in the heat of the argument, do not deliver that low blow that you know will push your spouse’s buttons and ruin the evening. Remember the goal…fair fighting on both sides.

Rather than having a time when you just seem to be fighting too frequently, set aside a designated time to talk over the complaints each has about the other. If the discussion starts to get too intense, call a time out. You can agree to a word before you start that means both parties will cease and take a break. Be considerate of your partner.

If possible complete the discussion with a time for love and companionship between you and your spouse. Fights are difficult on both parties. Usually after a fight both parties are exhausted. Many people want to be alone. If possible, respect your spouse’s need for quiet and privacy.

If you are calm and your spouse is willing, kiss under the mistletoe.

Alternatively, consider taking a shower together, giving your partner a massage, or scratching his or her back if that’s something they enjoy. Give some time to your spouse so he or she knows it is ok that they brought up their complaint. One of the greatest gifts you can give at this or any time of year is to listen, to hear, to understand and to be respectful of your partner.

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© 2018 by Tana Daughtrey.