No matter how perfect your relationship with your spouse is at the moment, conflict is inevitable simply because it is a part of all human relationships. For example, there will probably be a time when you or your spouse forget something and someone will get really upset.
Most couples fight in one of three styles, yet they are not aware about how they fight. Knowing the arguing style you have in your marriage is important because it can take the mystery out of your conflicts. When you don’t understand something, you may think that you can’t repair it. When you are aware of what is happening between you and your spouse, you are taking the power away from conflicts and arguing.
Some couples think that fights will necessarily diminish the quality of their relationship. This is not necessarily true. Negative emotional experiences do not necessarily push out the positive intentions and feelings that spouses have about their marriage and each other. While fights and arguing can get bad, they don’t always indicate the direction of a relationship. When you better understand the dynamics of your interactions during conflicts, you can get a better understanding of what is really going on.
What you need to understand about fighting styles
There are several things you need to understand about fighting styles. First, no style is better than the other and no style will lead to resolution of a conflict on its own. Sometimes partners start blaming themselves and think that if they were to fight in a different way, the outcome would have been different. This is not true in reality.
While you do have a good reason for fighting the way you fight, you are not your arguing style. These styles describe what you do in certain situations, not who you are. The styles are simply ways that you use to deal with your emotions under stress in your marriage. You’ve arrived at a certain style because of the personalities of the partners, the dynamics between you as a couple, your past experiences and other factors that shouldn’t create any moral judgements or assumptions.
The style of attack-attack can typically be found in couples with both partners determined to hold their ground and not give up. Each spouse is trying to make a point and doesn’t spend enough time trying to relate and understand the position of the other side. They treat each other as if they are enemies. They typically go back and forth and get louder and louder. Couples like these really stand out in public and you can probably think of one or two that you have experienced in a grocery store or a restaurant.
From the emotional perspective, in attack-attack fights both partners are focusing on the secondary emotions, which are the wrong thing to focus on. For example, a spouse may get scared about losing his or her partner and then gets angry. Instead of dealing with the feeling of fear, he or she brings anger to the table.
Secondary emotions are not the same as honesty. A secondary emotion will not attract your partner. Instead, it will repel him or her.
When your partner can sense the secondary emotion coming up, he or she starts to unconsciously prepare for a battle. If you engage in this style of fighting often, the emotions will start showing up and manifesting themselves in the bodies of both partners. One immediately gets ready to attack, the other one gets ready to counter-attack. Living in this pattern can be exhausting because it constantly keeps you tense and aggressive.
The solution in this pattern is to look at the primary emotion that hides behind the secondary emotion. In reality, you may not be angry. You may be sad that your partner ignored you. You may feel threatened because you feel that you are not a priority for your spouse any longer. Finding the real issue and dealing with it is what will help you get out of the fighting loop.
When couples use the attack-defend style of fighting, one person typically attacks and the other defends himself or herself. Often, the attacking partner starts feeling like he or she is winning, gets even more agitated and keeps hammering the spouse with arguments and attacks. The spouse continues trying to defend. This is yet another vicious cycle of fighting. The solution is the same as with attack-attack cycle. In a attack/defend scenario, the secondary emotion of anger is typically the one that gets out of control. If you find and deal with the emotion that caused the anger, you will diffuse anger and the fight will not continue.
Most of the time, couples move to this cycle after spending a significant amount of time in attack-attack and attack-defend types of fights. These fights leave them stressed and exhausted, so they start growing apart from each other and move into the cycle in which they just ignore the issues. Another scenario involves couples that are so afraid of conflicts and fights that they practice silent-silent way of arguing from the very beginning.
Getting rid of the unproductive fights
If you find yourself stuck fighting using one of the styles described above, you need to uncover the real reason why you fight. This may be hard because this reason may be hidden from you and your partner, especially if you are not used to getting in touch with your emotions and communicating how you feel.
The first step is to understand the real reasons for your fights. The second step is to become aware of how you fight. This is when the anger, aggression or silence will start making sense. After you get a clear picture of what is happening, you will need deal with the real reasons of your conflicts. Once you resolve the underlying issues, the secondary anger will go away and your conflicts will become very different.