Digging in Your Heels

All’s fair in love and war – at least, if you want your relationships to turn into a battlefield. Perhaps you’ve experienced the friendship or romantic tie that only exists so that someone can finally “prove their point.” The relationship goes from one conflict to the next. It seems without the drama of disagreement, there would be no relationship at all. Fighting does have a level of intensity that can be seductive. But a deep and beautiful connection to another person isn’t about digging in your heels until someone finally gives. It’s about mutual respect and support. It’s about putting down the rock and taking each other’s hand through the ups and downs of life. There is plenty of warfare in the world, you don’t need to practice it in your home.

But surely, there are things worth fighting about, right?

Think back on the things that you’ve launched your missiles over in the last six months. How many of those issues really warranted the upheaval? Yes, heightened emotions and taking sides happens in every relationship at some point, but choosing your battles wisely will save everyone, including you, a lot of grief.

Here are some questions to ask yourself BEFORE laying down the gauntlet!

First, Are You Fighting About Something You Can’t Control?
You can communicate what you think about something in the past or future but fighting about what “really happened” or is “going to happen” never leads anywhere good. These battles implode siblings and relatives, spouses and neighbors. You are allowed to relate what you remember or how you feel about the past, but you cannot convince anyone that their version is wrong or that their emotions are mislaid. You can state what you would like in the future, and so can your partner, but do either one of you really know how things are going to turn out? Ask any couple that has had trouble having children and they will tell you, talking about the future is one thing, navigating it is a different thing entirely. The fights about things that are uncontrollable are always about fear. You are afraid you’ll never get what you want. So you try to exact promises out of someone you love. If you need to tend to wounds from the past, that is your job, not anyone else’s. As for the future, there’s no need to fight. What will be, will be.

What is the Fight Really About?
Ever realized a day into the conflict that you can’t remember what started the fight at all? That’s because the fight isn’t about the fight. It’s about who gets to win. A duel of the egos can turn into a “you always” match. “You always do this.” “You never listen to me.” “You always act like this.” Love means never saying, “you always.” Love gives people room to grow and change and react authentically. Love means listening and accommodating another person. Fights are brought on by perceived scarcity. Both people think there is only room for one of you to get what you want and the other person will have to suffer. Once you get deep in, it’s going to take a big turn around to get out of it. You may suffer until you win. You may suffer until you lose. In the end, there may not be a big difference which side you end up on. Are the spoils of war ever worth the bloodshed to get there? You can always make a new choice. Always.

What Are the Consequences if You Just Let it Go?
Do you feel as though you will die if you give in? If you have invested all of your self esteem and worth into this fight, you might just die. But whose fault is that? You are the one who turned up the intensity of the fight to life and death. How is being locked in battle working for you? Maybe what you are afraid of is losing the relationship entirely. If intensity has replaced intimacy in your relationship, let go of the intensity and see what transforms. You may be very surprised by your sparring partner. Love has a way of spreading quietly and kindly. It doesn’t have the instant hit of a cutting remark or passive aggressive side-step, but it does have one thing going for it – inner peace that spreads out to the whole world. In the 60’s, they used to say, “What if we threw a war and no one showed up?” If you don’t show up for the battle, the war may just end.

Yes, there are issues that need discussion in every relationship occasionally. The key is not to confuse the differing perspectives with your love for each other. The subconscious is far stronger than the conscious. The reason you haven’t walked away from the fight, ironically, is because you love this person. You love them so much, you are willing to fight to stay near them. So turn off your mind and open your heart. Speak for yourself and listen to the other side. Put love first, you’ll find your fights end faster and you’ll have far less of them. For every minute of fighting, put in five minutes of support, praise and reassurance. Invest in love and the returns will be worth it.

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