Many couples can relate to a fight that quickly veers off topic, and becomes a matter of personal attacks. What started as concerns over money becomes a fight about irresponsible spending, or how one person brings in more money than the other. One member of the couple might be someone who shoves their feelings and issues down, and they come out in passive-aggressive ways. You were angry about something they said to you two weeks ago, but you choose to finally yell at them about forgetting the lock the garage door because they are forgetful and irresponsible. These issues with communication often end in the couple not addressing the real issue at hand and ending in attacks on each other that do not resolve anything.
Attacking the issue and not each other takes practice, and willingness. You need to be open and willing to hold each other accountable. Each member of the couple agrees to stay on topic, and to allow their partner to point it out if they veer off topic without getting upset at them. At the beginning of the process, it may be difficult to be corrected, but this is not to hurt you, it is to increase your awareness. It can be very enlightening, if you will allow yourself to step back and see it, to see how often you get off topic and resort to a personal attack. No one likes to be attacked, and nothing gets accomplished by attacking each other. If you agree that your common goal is genuinely to address an issue, keep the goal in mind.
When we resort to name calling or personal attacks, we have just added to the problem vs. making any progress towards it. You have now added anger and/or hurt feelings to the mix, and this does not make for clear heads and good problem solving skills. Also, always remember that you can’t take back what you say. There is truth in what we say in anger, and your partner knows it. If you genuinely love this person, how does a personal attack show that? It actually does the opposite. Also, while the fight may pass, the memory may not fade of what you have said to your partner. There can now be damage to the relationship that is more pervasive than the initial matter at hand.
There are some simple things that you can do to attack the issue, and stay on topic. Listen to each other respectively. This means letting the other person complete their thought, and talk to them in a kind and respectful tone. Agree on what your common goal is. What is the issue at hand, and what is the resolution you are each hoping for? While the resolution might be slightly different for each of you, there is likely room for compromise if you allow for it. When the other person expresses a willingness to compromise, or makes a concession, express genuine gratitude towards them. This helps promote these healthier interactions in the future.
If the issue can’t be solved in one sitting, make a commitment to come back to it and try again. Do not become frustrated and think that the issue is beyond repair because it can’t be solved in one sitting. Some issues take time and effort to resolve. Also, do not become frustrated with your partner because the issue was not easily solved in one sitting. Acknowledge the progress you have made in this attempt, what your partner has done to try and move towards a solution. Most importantly, be thankful to each other for working towards a difficult, but common goal, and that you managed to work as a team on the issue at hand, and not as individuals attacking each other. If you keep practicing these methods, problems will be solved, and harmony will be prevalent in your relationship.
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