5 Steps Toward a Healthier Fight

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One of the most rewarding parts of being in a committed relationship is that feeling of being seen, understood, and loved anyway. It’s a feeling we all ache for, and it is what leads us into arguments with others. Wanting to be understood is what fuels disconnection, whether in a relationship or in a country. The stronger we cling to the desire to be understood, the more we begin to believe that our side is the right side. This, in turn, fuels us to push understanding into the minds and hearts of others. Round and round we go, down a spiral of unhappiness.

I often say to my clients, “would you rather be right, or happy?” Being right means another is wrong, and in relationships you can’t have one person always be wrong. If one person is wrong, the relationship suffers. Often, in order to find happiness in our relationships, we have to have a willingness to be neither right nor wrong, but to find an answer somewhere in between.

Perhaps part of the issue is that we confuse love and attachment. Love says, “I want you to be happy.” Attachment says, “I need you to make me happy.” Similarly, in arguments Love says, “I want to understand you.” Attachment says, “I want you to understand me.”

What is this attachment? Attachment is wanting something we cannot have. When we feel attached to someone being a certain way or to winning an argument, we are wanting something inherently impossible. Nobody will stay just as they are, and no argument can be won without losing something. Attachment breeds suffering, whereas love ignites openness. When we’re open, we can experience happiness.

I know, easier said than done. In the heat of an argument we become angry and lose sight of the end goal. What is your end goal in a fight? Is it to win and be right? If you’re just dating, perhaps your end goal is to figure out if this is going to work. If you’re married, you’ll benefit if your end goal is, “how do I make this relationship stronger?”

In order to fight well, it’s important to keep the intention for understanding the other person and wishing happiness for them. Keep in mind, there is a difference between intention and action. The goal is to hold the intention, but not necessarily to do anything and everything to make them happy. Your job isn’t to make your partner happy, only they can do that. Your job is to wish happiness for them, so that you interact with them from a place of openness, understanding, kindness, and truth.

It can be scary to try to understand your partner in a fight. Sometimes we worry, “then who will be trying to understand me?” Relationships take faith, and if you are willing to model what you wish to receive, they’re more likely to reciprocate.

So how do you fight fair? Here are 5 ways to have healthier fights:

  1. Be honest. So often we skirt around the issue, do little jabs, use sarcasm, or just stew in our feelings. I see a lot of red cheeks in my office when I ask the question, “have you talked to them about how you feel?” An obvious solution, yet why don’t we use it more often? Being honest doesn’t mean you say what anger wants you to say. Being honest means saying what’s underneath the anger. Instead of “You never even ask how my day is anymore. All you care about is yourself.” try “I’m worried I don’t matter to you like I used to. I’m scared we’re losing what made us so great. I miss us.”
  2. Seek understanding instead of being understood. We so often think we’re listening, when really we’re planning our comeback, correcting mistakes in their stories, or wondering what we’ll eat for our next meal. When we listen to understand the experience of others, we use our critical mind to not only pay attention, but understand the emotional needs under what they’re saying. If you get distracted, pull yourself back to the conversation with a few deep breaths. It’s okay if you need to ask someone to repeat, so you can understand.
  3. Speak from love instead of attachment. You can learn to decipher between the two through somatic awareness. When we’re acting from love, we feel calm, warm, open. When we’re acting from attachment, we feel tense, closed, and anxious. If you’re getting stuck in attachment, imagine the other person as a small infant, and the warm, loving feelings that come with holding babies. Conversely, you can imagine the pain you would feel if you lost them (the pain comes from love). If this were the last conversation, how would you want it to go?
  4. Take accountability to resist defensiveness. It is incredibly tempting to shift blame away. Owning our mistakes leaves us feeling vulnerable, which we mistakenly believe equates to weakness. When you understand your impact on others and take accountability for how you affect them, you are standing squarely in strength. It doesn’t mean you lost the fight (remember, we’re not trying to win the fight!). Instead of, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” try this: “I realize when I said that, it hurt your feelings. That was unfair of me, and I’m sorry.”
  5. Keep your end goal in sight. If your only goal is to win this battle, you might just end up losing the war. Relationships can feel like war sometimes, when we’re stuck between struggling to feel understood and frightened at the idea of losing the other person. Take some deep breaths. Look at your partner with fresh eyes. Eyes that give them the benefit of the doubt. Remind yourself what you hope to come of this argument. A stronger relationship? Deeper connection? How do you ask for what you need? Using healthy argument rule #1, be honest and ask. Try, “it would mean a lot to me if we could take a few minutes each evening to see how one another’s day was. Could we try 10 minutes once we get home?”

Lean in to the beauty, the delicateness, and the strength of your relationships. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, vulnerable, or honest. That’s where the good stuff happens.

Good luck out there,

D

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In Search of a Village

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It is a recommendation I make often. Though it is often overlooked, it is vital to our mental and emotional well beings as women. Call it a village, a tribe, or simply a group of gals… women need ’em.

But why? There are many articles out there written on the topic, all outlining important reasons for maintaining your female friendships. Anthropologically, women have relied upon women for their emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. In hunter/gatherer days, women would be in the village with other women and children while men went out hunting. Women relied upon one another for survival and support. 19th century women often relied almost exclusively on other women for their emotional and mental needs, as marriage was often a mere social contract. This history has shaped the way our brains function, relate to others, and what fuels us.

I often hear the response, “I just don’t seem to get along with other women.” This is a response I understand. Heck, it was my excuse for not having chick friends for years. I had an assumption about other women, an assumption that led me to believe I was just different from them. Bound to an eternity of only having male friends. What was it that created such a barrier? For some women it’s feeling as though they don’t enjoy stereotypical female things, like shopping, nails, and wine. I’ve heard others express women are too dramatic, untrustworthy, or gossipy. Still some rely too heavily upon romantic partners, and end up struggling when an argument arises.

It’s time, ladies. Time to stop assuming the worst of other women, perpetuating negative stereotypes, and believing we don’t need one another. The world is harsh enough-it’s time we stick together more.

Truth is, your brain is missing a vital nourishment without a village. We’ve come a long way, but our neurological system is shaped by our history. We have more oxytocin in our system than men, which fuels our “tend and befriend” tendency and allows us to rebound faster from conflict. Research has also found that married women are more unhappy than single women, and married men are happier than single men. Why? Men rely upon one person for their emotional support, whereas women rely on a tribe. Women typically process and cope with difficult times through communicating and sharing with others. When this is blocked, they aren’t as resilient in the face of trouble. This is seen even in the case of cancer, where it has been found that women with more friends have a greater chance of survival, even when those female friends live far away. Simply having friends is protective.

Having friends helps us stay in touch with ourselves, our career goals, and our community. If you’re struggling to find your village or are afraid you “just can’t get along with women,” take a deep breath. Finding your few fabulous friends takes time and a bit of courage. Of course, you won’t get along with all women. The good news is that you don’t have to. Be on the lookout for friends who share your same interests, goals, sense of humor, or personality. Don’t like getting your nails done? Prefer hiking? Then seek out friendships that encourage outdoor fun instead of pampering. Stay true to yourself. As you do, you’ll be able to find the women out there who can meet you wherever you are. Believe me, they’re out there.

For me, it was a tribe made up of successful, independent, world-traveling women. As the years have gone on, the friendships have grown and changed. With practice, befriending women has become a more natural venture for me. I can enjoy a good pedicure as much as a gritty hike. And whether my friends live close by or on the other side of the world, I’m always comforted knowing they’re there.

The odds of finding such a tribe in this time and culture can feel insurmountable. With social media fueling disconnection, women are ever more isolated. How do you locate those women to nurture your spirit? It’s up to you. This is where the courage piece comes into play. You can utilize social media, like Meetup, to look for activities and groups that engage in things that are more up your alley. You could go volunteer somewhere, or simply look for the women in your every day work or school. It might take a little courage to strike up conversation or invite them to an activity with you, but what do you have to lose? I get it, the fear of rejection is fierce. Yet, the power you give it is just as important. Release your fear by focusing on your ultimate goal: finding people who are good for you. If someone declines or gives you a cold shoulder, you know they might not be a good fit for the job (and that’s okay!).

If you need more support going out and gathering your tribe, consider counseling (individual or group!) to help you along the way. Feel free to reach out.

Believe in yourself,

D

 

Want more articles to read on the topic?

A Compelling Argument About Why Women Need Friendships

Study on Friendship Among Women

Marriage is more beneficial for men than women

What Women Find in Friends That They May Not Get From Love

Women With Strong Female Friendships Have a Surprising Advantage Over the Rest of Us

Why Women Need A Tribe

Loving Them Anyway

It doesn’t always end up the way you expected. In your imagination it was like a dream. A pure life you would get to love and be loved by. Someone you could influence to be a better part of this world. Sometimes we even hope they’ll be better than us.

Yet, it doesn’t always turn out how we thought. Divorce happens, parents fight, step-parents and half/step siblings enter the picture, and sometimes they experience a bigger trauma like loss or abuse. We always want to protect the tiny humans in our lives, but we cannot protect them from life itself. So what happens after they’ve gone through difficult transitions, experiences, and changes? What are you supposed to do with the screaming child in front of you? Continue reading

New Years Intentions

 

It’s the first part of a new year, and resolutions are popping up left and right. How often have you found your firm decision to do or not do something work out? Did you stop smoking, lose weight and keep it off, eat healthier all year, become a better parent or partner, or find your dream job? Or, like many New Year Resolutions, is your untouched gym membership taunting you as you berate yourself for still saying “this is the last one?”

I read on Forbes that only 8% of New Years Resolutions are successfully met. That means that 92% of New Years Resolutions are not met. That is an overwhelming majority. What else do we continue to do, year after year, with such a low success rate? Continue reading

Love During The Holidays

The fireplace crackling, laughter and warmth surrounding you, you notice a sense of calm as you look around at your loved ones. You’re excited to see the glow of excitement upon their faces as they first gaze at the presents you’ve thoughtfully purchased for them. They’ll love them, like they love you. You enjoy the food made with tender care, the peaceful company you’ve chosen to partake in.

Does this sound like your holiday experiences? If so, you know how nurturing the holidays can be for you and your family. If not, you’re like a lot of people around the world who dread the holidays. Continue reading

Falling In Love

I’ve been faced with the question of ‘who am I’ with my clients lately. Often the suffering that enters my office is in the form of feeling at odds with self, how self fits into others and community, and questioning the value of self. Sometimes this is in the form of constantly rescuing others, other times in the go-getter American attitude of non-stop distraction. Don’t be fooled, I see this in 7 year olds as much as I do in adults.

Self. It’s not a topic we talk genuinely about often, but simply one we refer to. “I’m hungry.” “I’m bored.” Yet rarely, “I’m feeling vulnerable.” We put so much energy into our outside worlds. We even kid ourselves into thinking that we’re taking care of ourselves by watching TV, shopping, or playing video games. Yet when we do this, is our attention, compassion, and energy focused inward? Or are we temporarily escaping reality by putting our energy into something else? Continue reading

Can You Help Me?

 

Whenever I see new clients for the first time, I’m struck by how they enter the therapy room. Will they come in pumped and ready to work on their deepest issues? Eh, sometimes. More likely, they enter a little unsure. I can almost hear them thinking, “can you actually help me?”

It is the same question that prompts their questions of, are you married? do you have kids? have you ever struggled with an addiction? They are asking if I am able to help them feel better. And they should! Is therapy right for you? Am I the right therapist? All important questions. In order to better understand, let’s start somewhere else: what is therapy? Continue reading

Joy and Sadness

 

Being a therapist, and someone who has a strong affinity for children’s movies, it was in perfect order that my little girl and I went to watch Disney Pixar’s new movie, Inside Out. It was a film that brought laughter, tears, and a much needed emotion-focused movie to the market. I’ll try not to ruin the movie for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing it yet.

I was impressed with the accuracy, as I see it, in the portrayal of our relationship with emotions. Continue reading