One of the major problems that many couples face is lacking the ability to fight well.
The idea that couples fighting well might sound strange at first. There tends to be a false narrative in our culture that happy couples do not fight.
We imagine this couple that is always sensitive to each other needs, never gets annoyed or upset, and even if they do, they both forgive each other as quickly as the offense happens.
However, this view of marriage and relationships is simply an illusion.
Indeed, some couples do not scream and yell at each other, but this does not automatically mean they are a great couple. They could be withdrawing from each other and ignoring the underlying issues that keep them from connecting deeply.
The bottom line is all couples will face disagreements. All couples will find times when one or both of the spouses are annoyed or upset.
But what separates the champions of relationship from those domed to struggle or breakup or divorce is the way in which they are fighting or how they handle the aftermath of the fight.
Sadly, many couples repeatedly galvanize each other into cycles of defense, criticism, contempt, and stonewall, which researcher John Gottman has shown to be some of the most significant signs of divorce.
So what are you supposed to do if you find yourself in this type of situation?
Part of the problem many of us have is once our emotions flood us, we have a tough time communicating in a way that invites the other person to think about solutions and be open to any repair attempts.
Being flooded and continuing the discussion is a terrible idea.
When I’m working with couples in therapy, I have trained myself to notice when someone is being flooded. Once I observe it happening, I intervene to get that person or the couple time to calm down.
I know nothing can happen until the person or the couple is calmed down.
Being able to calm down is essential for effective communication.
To help you and your spouse achieve effective communcation, I made this visual guide giving you five things you need to do to help stay calm during a fight.
This guide will be especially essential to men, for as Gottman points out,
“Men are more likely to feel physiologically overwhelmed sooner than women during a heated exchange. And it takes less intense negativity for men to get physiologically overwhelmed. [Furthermore,] men are more likely to rehearse destructive, innocent-victim, or vengeful thoughts once they feel flooded.”
Of course, women will benefit from the guide because regardless of gender, they usually do and say things they later regret once a person is flooded.