If you’ve been in a committed relationship for any amount of time (or you intend to be), one of the best things to learn is how to fight well.
The fights are coming if they haven’t already, and when they do, you get to decide whether they will make or break you.
I am not talking about abuse here. I do not condone physical, mental, sexual, or emotional abuse in any way shape, or form. What I will say, however, is that often, if our spats go to their extremes, the end result is the same.
Most disputes in an average romantic relationship are based on misunderstandings.
Maybe you didn’t take the chicken out of the freezer until you caught sight of the time between Netflix episodes, and hubby is getting tired of take-out food after a long day of work. Or maybe the one-hundredth pair of socks that missed the hamper is what finally broke your back (because it seems you're the only one that picks stuff up).
Either way, when the fight finally comes, if there’s nothing to hold you back, all Hell is bound to break loose...
Unless you've learned the Art of Fighting Well.
Battle Strategy #1: Stick to the Facts
Hear me and hear me good (Sorry, I've lived in the South for too long):
If you don’t have the maturity to stick to the truth regardless of how that makes you look, then you don’t need to be in a relationship.
An unteachable person is a prideful person. That means they believe there is no room for them to change.
If you just felt fired up at these last statements, you might be who I'm talking about. If your first reaction is to point fingers, I'll get to that later.
If you keep reading, there's still hope for you.
On the one hand, I am a firm believer that one person can't change another, but on the other hand, I know the devastation that comes in a relationship when two people are so preoccupied trying to prove their points of view that they forget what true love really is. Check Out 'Surviving Happily Ever After' where I go into detail about this issue.
A committed relationship is no place for selfishness.
If your mate is telling you that something you are doing is causing them harm, that is not an invitation for you to defend yourself. It is a call to change. Whether or not this is your intention: You are hurting someone you love.
Let me take a pause here.
If you and your person are not on the same page, these battle strategies for love will not work.
Don't gloss over that last statement. Read it again if you have to.
It takes two to succeed in a relationship and it takes two to obliterate it. You and your guy or gal get to decide which two you're going to be.
'But Sonya, you don't know what they've done to me!'
It doesn't change the facts.
Forgive, or don't. Apologize or try to justify. It takes two.
Now, it's possible you can't get on the same page because you don't share the same core values. If you believe this might be you, then stop here and check out my article on Spiritual Compatibility.
Not you? Cool. Back to the subject at hand.
A smart person served it to me like this:
- If you were wrong would you want to know it?
- If you were wrong would you be willing to admit it?
- If you were wrong would you be willing to change?
If your answer to all three of these questions is not a resounding YES! then you need to do a little more work on the person in the mirror.
Don’t be bringing anyone else along for the long hard road you’ve got coming!
Have you made it this far?
Good. Let’s keep going.
Battle Strategy #2: Resist the Urge to Push the Big Red Button
The Big Red Button is that thing that if pushed, will always inevitably blow up in your face.
I've been married almost five years, and in that time we've discovered several buttons not to push, but communication is one of the most glaring buttons in our relationship. If we don't talk to each other in the best tone, or we use unwise language, this often ends in an hours long dispute.
Find out what the buttons in your relationship are, and start by avoiding the biggest and reddest ones of them all! Are you having trouble figuring it out? Ask! I mean it. Sit down with your mate in a neutral space, when you’re both in chill spirits, and talk about it.
Ask something like: “Hey babe, what are your pet peeves?” Or “How can I be a better spouse/boyfriend/fiancee?” (I’ll be addressing the spouse from here on out, but this can apply to all committed relationships).
Cognitively prepare yourself to hear something you may not be crazy about.
If you feel triggered, let out a breath, nod your head, and write stuff down. Figure out what the boundaries are and for heaven’s sake, don’t go there!
Remember: you are there to learn. When they are done saying their part, very kindly express that you also have some things you’d like to share. It’s best to come at this already prepared. By that I mean, don’t just respond to what was said, or try to defend yourself, simply share something you’ve already been thinking about for a while.
Once you both have drawn your battle lines, the real work begins.
Wives, if you know you and hubby need to eat dinner and there are no plans to go out, then prepare. Take out the meat to defrost, or if you don’t cook, at the very least ask him for the number of that Vietnamese place he loves so much. Husbands, if you don’t feel like picking your clothes off the floor or putting the toilet seat down because you’re too tired, remember, it takes less effort to go one step further than it does to diffuse the Third World War that is bound to break out in your living room.
Battle Strategy #3: Stop the Blame Game
The crossing of boundaries is what starts a fight, but pride is what kindles it. It doesn’t matter who started the fire, humility is what puts it out.
- Stop pointing fingers! Don’t forget what your mother taught you. It’s rude to point. It’s also pointless (no pun intended).
- Stop your public/social media rants.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t use names on your Facebook post or Instagram video— someone is bound to know who you’re talking about and the picture you paint about the person you’re with will never go away in some else’s mind, even when you’re over it.
Trust me, I’ve made this mistake.
In opening up about some very personal things to people I thought I could trust, I opened my spouse up for all kinds of uncomfortable situations even years down the line.
Once certain information gets out to the nether, no amount of backtracking will put it back in place. Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Remember that.
- Stop going to people who will only take your side.
I mean it.
That could be your mom or one of your besties (true friends should always be there for you, but that doesn't mean they have to pat your back when you're wilfully making grave mistakes).
I’m not saying don’t seek counsel. You need counsel, you need wisdom, but for the love of all that is good, just because you think you’re right, doesn’t mean you are!
Find people who aren’t afraid to call you out in love.
Preferably, go to people who know and love both you and your mate. Even better, someone who’s a step ahead of you and seems to be doing well.
Are you dating? Engaged? Talk to someone who is married. Are you married? Talk to someone who’s been married longer. Or go to a professional together!
Please don't make the mistake of getting all of your relationship advice from people with relationships as messed up as yours. Seriously. If someone else seems to be fairing better, they must be doing something right.
- Own up to your mistakes.
Don’t just wait for the other person to apologize. Get the ball rolling!
If you know you did wrong but you won’t admit it because he did wrong too, just stop.
It doesn’t matter if you have a point or one hundred points. This isn’t a UFC match where you're trying to knock out your oponent. This battle is more of a dance, training you both how to be better people for one another in the hottest struggles life throws your way.
If you step on your partner’s toes, say you’re sorry.
- Don’t lose sight of what’s really important.
You love this person. You don’t want to be at odds with the one you love. You want to make out with the one you love!
‘Does she mean make up?’
No! I mean make out!
Let go of the pride. Apologize. Tell them you love them. Give them a big smooch! Do whatever you can do to remind yourself (and them) that the end goal here is to be lovingly together through the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Humility is an art that takes practice, my darling. In fact, as a person who never does wrong myself (<— sarcasm) I was astonished when my boyfriend (now my spouse) first did this.
I was gearing up for war let me tell you, but the moment I pointed something out to him that he knew I was right about he hit me with a “you’re right, I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better next time.”
His humility stunned me, but better yet, it set an example that I try my best to follow to this day.
Battle Strategy #4: Call a Ceasefire Before the Day Ends
It's simple. Don't go to bed angry.
You may have heard this before, but it's so true that it's worth repeating.
If you and your boo-thang can't come to a resolution by the end of the day, the next best thing is to agree together that you will revisit the conversation at a later time, and then, hear this, move on. DO NOT STEW IN BITTERNESS OVERNIGHT.
Say it with me:
"Babe, I hate fighting with you. I'm sorry. I love you so much, I didn't mean to hurt you."
And if that's not enough:
"I'm sorry I made you feel that way. Can we please revisit this conversation on another day? I just want to go to bed with the one I love."
Make it your own, but either way, communicate these three things:
-I'm sorry I hurt you.
-I love you.
-I want to work it out sooner rather than later.
*If you have to go back to this conversation, DO it. Don't just wait for them to forget about it and consider it a done deal. It will come up again, and by the time it does, it will have more ammo behind it! It's best to come to a resolution together, even if you have to call in a professional.*
If you're married and want to stay that way, please don't ever say the D-word to get a reaction. That is a HUGE no-no.
If the fight is so heated that you feel you're at the verge of doing something stupid, please, walk away and regroup. While not ideal, if removing yourself from the situation is the last resort before you do or say something you know you'll regret, try these things:
1. Say, "I need a minute," before going to another part of the house where you can be alone. Try not to slam doors.
2. If you can't stand to be in the same house, go for a walk. Don't take the car keys. It is unsafe to drive in this condition.
Check back in after you've let off some steam. A simple, "I'm safe. Are you OK?" can mean a lot.
When it seems the tensions are low again, go back home.
Hug it out. Go to bed.
Tomorrow is a new day.
Battle Strategy #5: Learn To Fight Together Instead of Each Other
Here's the Bottom Line:
You love your person and they are not the enemy.
The Enemy is whatever or whomever comes between you and the one you have committed to loving through everything. The more you learn the Art of Fighting Well, the more you'll learn the value of picking up on red flags and going from fighting eachother to protecting your relationship at all costs.
Defend your love. Defend your relationship. Defend your spouse. Defend their heart against anything and anyone who would come against them or your relationship for evil.
If you're a better person with them than without them, that is a relationship worth fighting for!
The heat of the battle can be the best place for kindness, humility and love to take place because you're not just going through the fire... you're growing through it, too.
The key here is to always practice the Art of Fighting Well. If you grow through the bad as well as through the good, then baby, you're set for life, and your love will be the stuff of legends.