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Curb Your Anger: How To Fight Fair

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You have a choice – you can be happy or right, an enthusiast or a curmudgeon, a lover or a fighter, a conflict resolver or an instigator. However, if finding and keeping love is your goal, you can’t have both. So, pick your point of view and act accordingly!

Anger is toxic, and conflict resolution should be a Nobel prize–winning endeavor. Not storing resentment and anger is a good idea in general. Sometimes the absolute best thing to do with your wrath is to give it a nap. Tiredness exacerbates perceived difficulties, heightens aggravation, and can get in the way of a sensible, healthy resolution. If there is a point of conflict, my advice is to address it after rest, recent exercise, full hydration, and a hearty meal. In 30 years of experience as a therapist, I’ve yet to meet the couple who had a knockdown, drag out fight at 8am. Here are five major don’ts when it comes to arguing with your mate – and five resolutions for those don’ts!

5 Things Never To Do in a Fight:

1. Whine

This is not a communication attempt; it is an irritant.

2. Start a conversation with, “The trouble with you is…”

Other phrases to leave out of your vocabulary include “I can’t stand it when you…” and “You drive me crazy when…” Righteous, negative beginnings beget rotten endings.

3. Analyze Your Partner While Making Your Point

Unless they have requested an assessment (and do tread carefully here), this is obnoxious behavior. And if one of you is actually a therapist, that only makes it worse and you should know better.

4. Say, “You Can’t _____________.”

Never tell your lover he or she can’t do what you are asking him or her to do. You are being either illogical or flat-out de-motivational or both.

5. Bring Up Past Errors

The past only exists in what you are feeling right now. A string of grievances may seem insurmountable. Sticking to this moment in time makes change seem more possible.

Try These 5 Approaches Instead:

1. If a comment could be taken as critical, sandwich the meat of your message with positives. Here’s an example:

  • “You know I think you are the greatest and wouldn’t hurt me for the world [it helps if you mean it – humans are intuitive and more often than not, can spot a fake]. But when your friend was verbally attacking me, I wish that you had jumped to my defense. I do know you care about me and disagree with what was said.”

2. If communications are going badly, you might say: “Would you re-phrase what you are saying please?” You could also try, “Let’s start this conversation over,” or “I can’t hear as well when you yell, I instinctively start retreating into a shell.” Harsh start-ups bode unwell for the rest of the conversation.

3. Negotiate change. Or, in other words, say things like, “I prefer you not to do that (or say that) anymore” (stated in a “please pass the salt” tone). Then say “thank you” and move swiftly on to a more interesting or palatable topic. Asking with civility for change can be good. Dwelling on another’s wrong doings isn’t.

4. Be vulnerable. Showing hurt, pain, or neediness (at levels of normalcy), make you   easier to hear. Also, try to impart the message that you are requesting, not demanding.

5. Assume good intentions – give the benefit of the doubt. Say something like, “I know you enjoy a good debate. I’m a fan of your animation and appreciate your eagerness, but I still like to finish my thoughts. I have an idea. When I raise my hands in a prayerful position, you stay silent until I stop speaking. Could we try that rule of engagement?”

Create your own reality. Ask for changes you need and don’t assume you are entitled. They may not be able (or willing) to give what you want. If you aren’t feeling the love at a given moment, don’t automatically assume that you made a mistake. Instead, keep loving or be neutral. Often, the feelings of love sometimes return. If not, exit, but not with anger… with grace.

Dumping a truckload of negative thoughts and resentments on a date or mate is likely to produce defensiveness, avoidance, and insecurity. If you have a hair-trigger temper, repair it – ultimately you are only pulling the trigger on yourself. Anger begets anger. Words can be forgiven, but sometimes they are impossible to forget.

Dr. Janet Page is a psychotherapist in private practice for 30 years in NYC and Atlanta, and taught for 22 years at Emory University. As the author of “Get Married This Year,” she speaks to audiences around the country about keeping love alive and finding your mate. Click here for more information on her “Get Married This Year” seminars.
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2 Comments »

  • Schadenfreudian says:

    I actually DID try to use some of them, Jim. My attempts would mostly further infuriate my now ex-wife. Eventually the emotional abuse and increasingly physical intimidation drove me back toward a state of sanity.

  • Jim says:

    Giberish. id like to see someone follow these “rules”.

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