Relationship

ON RELATIONSHIPS: HOW TO FIGHT FAIR

Tie your life to someone else’s, spend nearly every day with them year after year – and if you don’t fight from time to time, there’s a chance that you may be a robot. The trick, of course, is to find a way to fight that doesn’t lead to all out war.

I like to think that Adam and I have gotten better at this over time, and part of that process has been defining our fights. Knowing that not every little scuffle needs to result in a three day grudge or hurt feelings has really helped in the long run. Below, the three types of fights Adam and I have, how we’ve learned to behave ourselves in each, and ultimately how we kiss and make-up.

“The Debate”

This is when you have a lively debate over say, the greatest band of all time or whether or not you think a random law should be in effect. Aka something that doesn’t really make or break you in the long run. They’re throw aways. It’s okay if you have polar opposite opinions. But “the debate” can be sneaky because at first it’s all fun and games and then suddenly someone strikes a nerve or a friendly jab is mistaken for a real punch and bam – things escalate. Once we actually defined what a debate looks like for us, we can go from having one to being perfectly agreeable the very next moment. The trick here is to make a case for yourself without insulting the other person’s perfectly valid opinion. Meaning, just because the person doesn’t “get” your favorite Rolling Stones song doesn’t mean you should scream “Well that’s because you have horrible taste!” at them. Ultimately, just go ahead and get on with your day.

“The Row”

This is what we call a little skirmish, because it’s a a cuter British way of saying the word fight. “The Row” is still a fight, but like, a baby one. Say your partner hasn’t picked up their socks for the millionth time or you get hangry and snap at them for being indecisive. I believe the little things are important in a relationship, but I’m not going to live and die by Adam keeping his half of the closet tidy. There are bigger issues in this world and certainly in our lives. But if left un-mended, a row can ruin a whole day. So as soon as you see the other person wave a white flag (it could be obvious like “I’m sorry” or it could be them reaching out for a hug or cracking a joke) – just throw in the towel and let it go. Also, reminder to not always wait for them to wave the white flag. You’re on the same team, you know.

“The Real Fight”

When it’s not a debate or a row.. it’s a real fight. The ones about the big picture. The words that really need to be spoken and that really deserve to be heard. Here’s what I’ve learned about really fighting….

If at any time emotions are running too high? Hit pause. Take a deep breath or walk into another room and come back. Even go to sleep if you’re exhausted. Is anything productive ever really said past midnight? We don’t follow the rule of ‘never go to bed angry‘ but we do follow the rule of ‘never go to bed without saying I love you‘ – even we have to say it through gritted teeth. Trust me, a clear head and a new day can make all the difference in a real fight.

Choose your words carefully in a real fight. Those words that you want to just shout in the moment? You can never take them back. Ever. They can be forgiven, but sometimes not forgotten. I have a great memory and Adam knows it – so five years from now, if I want to drum up the pain of something he said during a fight and hold it over his head… I easily could. Which means it’s in everyone’s best interest if he doesn’t say them to begin with. While you’re at it though – don’t drum up things from five years ago to use in a current fight. No one can go back and change history – so focus on the present and creating concrete plans for the future. Keep words like always and never to a minimum (people rarely always or never do anything in reality) and instead focus on how their actions have made you feel or how you intended your own actions to be perceived. Be clear about why what you’re fighting about actually matters in the long term.

And perhaps most importantly – you can still be in love in a fight. I swear it’s possible. And it’s super reassuring to your partner to remind them of that. Reach out to hold their hand even when you’re really angry at each other. A small reminder that you’re not going anywhere. Or say ‘Listen – you know I love you for X and Y, but Z is really bothering me for this reason.’ That way they’re not only only hearing a laundry list of all their worst qualities.

Love is what you got you into this mess in the first place, and there’s a good chance it will get you back out again… if you can remember to look for it. So go ahead and fight. Then kiss, make-up and get ready for another round.

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OUR RELATIONSHIP 10 COMMANDMENTS

The Steele Maiden: Advice for Couples - Our Relationship 10 Commandments

I was determined to share more personal stories on the blog this year and you all agreed that relationship tidbits were something you’d like to see. So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day (hello lovers!) I wanted to share Adam and I’s Relationship 10 Commandments. I first heard of this idea on a podcast I listen to faithfully (Happier with Gretchen Rubin) and loved it so much. I had never written these out before, but when it came time to think of what the 10 ‘pillars’ of our relationship were – these came very easily. I don’t like to think about them as rules, more like lanes on a road. We’re racing along best when we’re keeping it steady between these 10 guidelines.

I can’t stress enough that Adam and I in no way think we have a perfect relationship. And what works for us, could be all wrong for others. Also, several of these were completely stolen from other couples that we admire or bits of wisdom we’ve heard throughout life and applied to our own relationship. But regardless, it’s a fun exercise I thought I’d share. And if you try it too (you could make one of your relationship, your family or just yourself) I want to hear what makes your list! Without further ado…

OUR RELATIONSHIP 10 COMMANDMENTS:

  1. ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM – from the very beginning, we decided it was us against the world. We’re a team of two, trying to figure out a way to win in this crazy game of life. If I do something great I want to look back and see Adam cheering, and if he falters I want to be on the sidelines yelling ‘you got this!’.
  2. LIVE IN AN ENVIRONMENT OF GROWTH – No relationship is perfect. Ours certainly isn’t. But if we’re always trying to make it better and trying to grow together, that means more to me than some idyllic version of #couplegoals.
  3. TALK TO ME – honestly, communication (as it pertains to a relationship) isn’t either of our strong suits. But we both agree that communication is really crucial to a solid relationship. So it’s something we work on and remind ourselves of all the time.
  4. SIGNATURE MOVE – A sense of routine and pattern of habits has always been super important to me. Adam has always winked at me from across crowded rooms and keeps his hand on my hip-bone until I fall asleep at night. I always link my arm through his elbow when we walk on the street. It’s a constant physical reminder that the other person is there.
  5. ACCEPT THE WHITE FLAG – if we’re in one of those silly, bickering moments and the other person tries to break the mood (with a joke, a hug.. a white flag if you will), let them. Unless it’s some sort of major fight that you really need to work through, accept the attempt at apology and move on. Life’s too short to spend it pouting.
  6. FRESH EYES – A lifetime is well, a long time. And I think all too often people settle in to thinking they know every single story the other person has ever told or thought the other person has ever had. I try to actively learn new things about Adam, share new things with him and generally look at him with fresh eyes.
  7. SUNRISE/SUNSET – We try to start the day together and end it together. That means if I have to stay up late to do work, Adam stays up too. While we’re at it, we kiss good morning just like we kiss goodnight. The world can take you in a million different directions throughout the day – but at least we know we begin and end it together.
  8. PAY IT FORWARD – The whole ‘I did the dishes so you should do the laundry’ life sounds exhausting to me. Just carry your weight. I like to think we’re both good about not keeping score. My Dad always told me ‘relationships are give and take’ and I think some years you’ve got to give more and some years you’ll need to take more. If you’re with someone that’s willing to do the same, it all comes out in the wash.
  9. OLD DOG, NEW TRICKS – You know the saying. People can definitely evolve over time, but I think at our core we are who we are so it’s best to come to terms with that. I’m damn stubborn and Adam is slow to adopt new ideas. I suspect that when we’re 80 we’ll still be that way so best to find a way to love those aspects of each other now.
  10. TAKE YOUR MEDICINE – I read once that couples can get common colds (your little passing everyday fights that cure quickly) or cancer (the incurable, killer kind of differences). But that most couples have, well, diabetes. A disagreement or issue that you will carry for a lifetime but that – if kept in check and treated regularly – is not really a big deal and you can still go on to live a fully happy life. Maybe you have differing political views or one of you has a tendency to be a workaholic or struggles with anxiety. Not deal breakers, but you need to recognize the diabetes, communicate (hello #3) and be sure that you’re treating the issue. We have our flare ups but we typically can see them coming and take our medicine so to speak. 

The Steele Maiden: Advice for Couples - Our Relationship 10 Commandments

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