RULES OF CONFRONTATION
By Olanrenwaju Ogunleye
Point deductions for shots below the belt, ten seconds to get up after a blow, and knock-out wins may pass for rules in the boxing ring, but they won’t work at home, and certainly not in a fight with someone you love. The ground rules of love and confrontation are simple. In short, you’ve got to remember who you are talking to and what they mean to you if you want a chance at improving your relationship by the end of the match.
Here are some rules to implement during conflicts. They will help you keep the argument in perspective and resolve issues without unnecessary problems.
Remember that you’re fighting with the love of your life:
Sometimes, we get so consumed with winning an argument that we forget who we are fighting with. The person standing in front of you, pushing all the wrong buttons, is in fact your favourite person in the world. You’ve got to find a way to remind yourself of that when things get rough. Just when you feel like punching them in the nose, think of how much it will hurt the one you love, and choose your words accordingly.
Keep the main thing the main thing:
Keep the main thing the main thing. If you are supposed to be talking about how you felt when you were left alone at the party, keep the conversation focused on that. Do not bring up last year’s Christmas gift or the fact that the dog was left outside last night. Focus on the main thing and see it through to a resolution. As you keep the main thing, also remain in the present situation. Maybe this has happened before, maybe many times before. Resist the urge to bring up all the times in the past when the same situation has occurred. Even in a court of law, only certain references to past behaviour are allowed. Stay focused and stay in the present.”
– From “Marriage: Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness”
Recognise the little things:
Once in a while, you’ve got to give yourself a reality check. If you lost your partner, would the little things that get you so riled up matter to you at all? Would you be able to sleep at night without his obnoxious snoring? Could you enjoy a movie without his incessant couch commentary? Would you miss wiping up his coffee mess every morning? Don’t allow yourself to get too preoccupied with the morbid side of this, it’s just a check-up for your jadedness to help you get in touch with what really matters.
Focus on the future:
To the couple with arguments I put it this way: “Focusing a discussion on what happened is focusing on the past; focusing on what is the meaning for my partner of what happened is focusing on the future.” This change of strategy will not only help resolve a current conflict, but is also sure to bring about better communication between the two partners and a more positive and harmonious future.”
– From ‘How to Agree to Disagree’ by Yaakov Lieder
It is not about winning or losing:
“It is our anger that gets us into a fight and it is our ego that keeps us there.” People tend to go on fighting about issues even when they are no longer relevant or when their original importance has diminished. They do this for the sake of proving a point and to demonstrate that they are the winners and, more importantly, that the other person is the loser. But often, the one who loses the most in the long run is the ‘victor’ himself.”
Be present in the situation:
Being present means that you make the conscious effort to tune everything else out. Turn the TV off, shake off the stresses of your work day, and most of all, forget the past. No matter how validated you feel in bringing up the last 100 times your partner did what he did, you will only be forcing a wedge of judgment between you. Your partner won’t feel loved, appreciated or respected; they will feel attacked. The only thing that comes from an attack is submission or counter-attack, neither of which help to strengthen a relationship. Try with all your might to take the current situation as a single occurrence without tying it to a string of offenses.
Those little marital irritations mean less than nothing:
“Newspaper advice columns often print letters complaining about a spouse’s snoring or some other small irritation. But whenever those letters appear, they are soon followed up with letters from widows and widowers with statements like these: ‘I used to hate my husband’s snoring, but now that he’s gone, I will give anything to have him lying beside me during the night—snoring and all.” OR they write, “My wife used to nag me about my appearance. But since she died, I can see that no one cares about me the way she did.’ These people have learned that in the end, those little marital irritations mean less than nothing.”
What have we learned? That treating your partner with love and respect will pay off now and later; there is no question about it. Don’t let simple confrontations over trivial issues get in the way of the big picture.