Fighting Mad

How often do you fight with your partner? Are they kitchen sink arguments- an argument that pulls in every mean thing you ever did- or slice and dice arguments? Believe it or not, there is a place for good, constructive battle within all relationships- I’m always skeptical of the couple who say that they never fight. Really? Then someone isn’t being honest- either with themselves or with each other.

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 Conflict doesn't mean that your relationship is in trouble - it means that you are two living, breathing, thinking people with individual opinions. Both happy and unhappy couples disagree - how can any two people share a house, careers, in-laws, families, pets or kids without an occasional spat? Everyone disagrees at some point - but do you know when things are out of hand?

 There's a world of difference between constructive criticism and dirty fighting. With the right tools and mind set, conflict can become a path to deeper intimacy - the chance to be who you truly are, to accept your partner's vulnerable and unique self, and to build a strong partnership.

Here’s some tips:

Stop the blame game and cancel the words never and always from your vocabulary. Criticism, contempt, confrontation and hostility are like gas on a fire and can burn your relationship to the ground. Keep a verbal fire extinguisher within reach. If an argument is spiraling out of control, try one of these techniques.

  • Change the subject, inject gentle humor, and show some extra appreciation. If it's too late, bail out now. You can always come back when the fire is on simmer and resume when you have both cooled off.

  • Never fight when you are hungry, tired or drunk. Being tired or hungry will unleash words that cannot be taken back. Break out the bubbly after you have resolved things.

  • Focus on your environment – no distractions! Turn off the tv, phone, laptop or game. Resolving differences with your partner is too important to do on the fly. Giving them your undivided attention opens lines of communication and builds intimacy.

  • Listen, listen, and then listen some more. Even if you can accurately predict exactly what your mate is going to say, hear them out. Just like you were taught in kindergarten, it's about feelings and your partner's need to be heard. Don't interrupt, offer a solution, or defend yourself too soon. Nod your head, rephrase or just say "um-hum" to show that you are respectful of the emotions behind the words.

  • Rehearse this useful phrase "I'm sorry". Everyone makes mistakes, and apologies are crucial for the health of your relationship.

 Finally, there are some areas that all couples may have to agrees to disagree. Some of the main issues that all couples have conflict over are:

Families of origin - how will you handle:

  1. Holidays: How often will you visit, how much, how long?  Do you go together or alone?

  2. Phone calls: How often will you talk to parents, siblings or other relatives on the phone? Will frequent calls disrupt your couple time or blend with you plans?

  3. Intrusions: How will you handle family members who ask for too many personal details, offer too much advice, try to take over aspects of your life or are a toxic drain on your couple’s time and energy? 

Individual and mutual friends - how will you:

  1. Maintain relationships with friends just one of you knows and enjoys?

  2. Build a network of mutual friends, especially other couples?

  3. Balance individual friendships with your need to socialize as a couple.

Spending some time on discussing these common topics will help to head off many arguments. And using these tips will create a good battle ground for you and your partner.

If you would like more help working through your marriage issues or disagreements, please consider coming in for marriage counseling. Rescue your most important relationship today.

Resolving Gender Roles and Family Values in Intercultural Relationships

Often, people have many differences in relationships; this is why the book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus was a real success. It seems like men and women have really different takes when it comes to relationships, marriage, work and children. If you add cultural differences to the mix, a relationship can become even more explosive. So here are a few things to keep in mind when you embark on a cross-cultural relationship.

Gender Roles

Women the world over are becoming more independent, both financially and emotionally. However, in certain parts of the world, the man is still expected to be the breadwinner while the woman takes care of the home. It's possible that, within a relationship, one of the two spouses might believe in a more traditional division of labor while the other one might not.

Just because you have different ideas doesn't mean that you should have issues in your relationship. You both need to sit down and figure out a way of doing things that works for both of you. If both of you compromise a little bit, you should be able to come to an arrangement that works for you.

Of course, neither of the two partners should feel like they are being forced or pigeonholed in any way. So it's important to keep the channels of communication open. If a certain arrangement is not working for you, then express how you feel and trust that your partner cares enough about you to make some adjustments.

Family Values

In certain countries like India, Italy, Puerto Rico etc., family is considered very important. It's very rare for people to be completely out of touch with their families or only meet them once or twice a year. People spend time with their families on a regular basis and they help each other out whenever necessary. For example, if someone needs help babysitting, they can always call their parents, siblings etc. for help. People go on vacations with their large families too. And they look up to their elders, often doing what they say even if they don't agree with them.

As opposed to this, we have the Western paradigm. Most Westerners leave their families when they go to college and live independently as adults. If they move out of state, they might only meet their families a couple of times a year.

If you're marrying someone from a more family-oriented culture, you might have to get used to the idea of marrying an entire family! Most people find that once they adjust to the idea, they actually start liking this new way of life because it gives you so many people to fall back on. Still, if you feel like you need more privacy, this is also something you can discuss with your spouse and come to a compromise.