We’ve all heard the assertion that all couples fight. Most of us have been told that as a way to reassure us when we ARE fighting with our spouses. But is this really what we need to hear and believe? Last week, Dr. Susan Heitler, PhD, the author of “From Conflict to Resolution,” responded to that very piece of advice with some ideas that might surprise you. Her post, which appeared on PsychologyToday.com, says that all couples do NOT have to fight; in fact, they shouldn’t fight at all.
Dr, Heitler was responding to a post by psychologist Harriet Lerner, called “My Partner and I Can’t Stop the Fighting.” In that post, Dr. Lerner advised couples that fighting is a normal part of marriage and that as long as the couples “fight fair,” it’s a perfectly acceptable part of the relationship.
Dr. Heitler disagrees, which we found a bit surprising.
Marriage fights, that is, arguing at any level of intensity, reflect a breakdown in partnership. It means you have switched to a stance of being opponents, arguing for yourself and against your partner.”
She suggests that couples should have a no-fighting policy in their relationship, agreeing instead to talk things out without any fighting at all.
The notion of “fair fighting” suggests a model that is an upgrade over going to war with truly abusive fighting. Fair fighting however still is not an ideal worthy of aspiring to. It’s just a lesser evil. Fighting of any type involves standing against your partner. Wrong idea.”
What does Dr. Heitler suggest couples do instead?
She says that if couples agree up front to be united against the issues they face, rather than fighting each other OVER those issues, they have a much better chance of solving problems, without hurting each other and their relationship in the meantime. The key, she says, is to agree to find win-win solutions to problems that arise.
Heitler gives as an example the scenario that she would like to have some ice cream after dinner but her husband is dieting. Rather than her husband demanding that she be considerate enough to skip the ice cream or her demanding that ice cream is her right, the win-win solution might be that he goes into another room to do something he enjoys while she tucks into her ice cream or perhaps she might decide to follow his healthy lead and have a snack that they can both
These types of win-win solutions to conflict are much easier to come by when a couple is united against the source of the conflict, says Heitler.
Dr. Heitler offers several other alternatives to fighting, even “fair fighting” that are real eye-openers to those of us that have been led to believe that as long as we fight “fair”, it’s okay to fight.
Check out her full post for more advice on how to cut fighting from your marriage and start working together against the issues you’ve been facing!