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How Do I Fight with Someone?

“How do I fight with someone?” is a question I am frequently asked. My answer...

My husband and I were together for three years before we got engaged and didn't live together until we were married. I had experienced significant trauma in my life and his was fairly “boring” in comparison. When we came together, we simply didn't know how to fight, we didn't know how to argue or compromise. And boy did we have to learn and grow up in our first year of marriage! But we did and this was our biggest lesson learned when it comes to arguing...

No matter how old you are or how far into a relationship you are, you first have to be aware of how men’s and women’s brains work and how different they are. Think of the difference as a box versus cooked spaghetti. For men the two lobes in their brains (logic and emotion) work like this: when they are in their logic, they are super logic, but when they have to fall back down and dive deep into their emotions, they are then not logical at all. Those two opposites are neatly stored in boxes, they don't cross paths. That’s okay. That’s just the way men’s brains are wired. Women are the opposite, their logic and emotions are all intertwined. Women tend to hold onto sh*t. They remember every argument, every fight. Everything gets contorted and mixed up which creates a level of emotional distress that is unhealthy.

Many times we end up in a big argument, bringing up things that don’t belong there, and in the end we’re mad about something that probably started off as silly and ridiculous. Now we’ve made a mountain out of a molehill and we keep digging and getting more vindictive by the second. Our tongues can be so poisonous and have immense power to really hurt. And unfortunately, people don’t recover from that very fast and that greatly affects relationships in the current moment and in the long term.

And so, in our early days of fighting I realized that I wasn't willing to fight like I've seen everyone else do in my life. We were in the middle of one of our biggest arguments and I handed my husband a pad of paper and a pen and told him to go write it out. Blank stare. But he picked up the pen and paper, we both sat on opposite sides of the house and wrote letters to each other. Here’s how the letter strategy works: start with writing out pure rage. Frantically write your deepest, angriest feelings – yes, verbal diarrhea – right there on paper and let it all out. Don't sweep it under the rug or bottle it up. Emotions will start flowing, which is perfect. The best part? You don't have to give the letter to them that way.

After you've written this crazy letter saying all the things that fly out of your head, look back at it and filter it. Have you ever wished you could go back over a conversation and white out sections of things that you said and did, behavior's and facial expressions? This is when you get to do that. You have that ability to safely release everything. You can cross off the things you didn't really want to say and rewrite them. And when that's done, you can do it again as often as you need until you get a letter that reflects your point of view in a way that’s not going to tear the other person apart. “This is what I'm trying to say, what I need you to understand.” When you get to that point and you’re both done with your letters, you pass them back and go back to your corners to read them. Here's the cool thing: you can't fight with a piece of paper. It holds no energy. You can read this letter and be as mad as you want. But after the initial shock of the first reading wears off, you can read it again and think, “this is what they're trying to say.” And then you can respond when you're actually calmed down enough you can discuss it.

I highly recommend this technique. Eventually, you will wire your brain to naturally go to that place so that you won’t need a physical pen and paper anymore. You will learn to decompress faster which will allow you to stop and hear what someone is saying without reacting to it impulsively. Is this fight the hill I want to die on? Will this conversation make it or break it? Is this going to matter in a day, a week, a month, a year? Is this worth fighting over? When we can get our heads out of that space and say, “I love you more than I love my point of view in this situation; I can agree to disagree,” it’s a beautiful place to be.

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