SGR 005 | How To Win a Fight
Who doesn’t love winning?
When we fight with our partners - a totally normal behavior that even the healthiest and strongest of couples engage in - is there a winner?
If you are the winner, does that mean your partner is the loser?
Is that how you want your partner feel? Are you really winning when your partner is left feeling like the loser?
In a relationship, there are only two scenarios - either you BOTH win or you BOTH lose!
This week we’re talking about how you can BOTH win a fight without having to agree or find a concrete solution. We debunk the myth that happy couples don’t fight and tell you what they actually do: fight right.
Happy couples follow a few simple rules during a fight and we’re sharing those with you in today’s episode.
- Fight with your partner like they are someone you love
- Don’t put the future of your relationship on the line during an argument
- Don’t hit below the belt
- Keep The Four Horsemen in check (Episode 004 - How to Get Divorced)
- Focus on making meaningful and effective repairs
Be sure to download this week’s bonus - it’s a step-by-step guide to effectively repairing after a fight, including a research-proven strategy for making an impactful apology.
Short on time? Here's a list of today's topics and when to listen:
- Happy couples fight - 0:42
- Misconceptions - 1:05
- Reality - 2:02
- The don’t of fighting - 4:29
- What does repairing a fight look like? - 7:36
- Extending the olive branch - 7:45
- Moving to a better state of mind - 10:04
- Challenges with accepting the olive branch - 11:28
- Commitments to make with your partner - 11:50
- Repairing does not mean resolving - 13:38
- Reflecting on your flooded state - 16:45
- Marina + Meredith’s Takeaways - 20:02
Meredith: Hey, there, and welcome to Episode 5 of The Simply Great Relationships podcast. We're so glad you could join us today. I'm Meredith Silversmith, and this is Marina Voron, and we are excited to bring you this episode on “How to Win a Fight with Your Partner.” How to win, that's a good one.
Marina: We all love winning.
Meredith: We do love winning. Just listen and find out. Make sure you stay with us until the end because we've got a really good bonus for you, and we'll tell you how to get it.
Marina: Yeah! So, winning fights. Fighting is something that all couples do. Even the healthiest, happiest, most connected, awesomest couples still have fights, and that's okay. Fights have a function. They allow us to display some anger. They give kind of us that visceral quick fix to release and unload and let us move on. I think there is this really big misconception. Tell me if you've encountered this; for a fight to end successfully, a fight only went well if there's a clear, distinct resolution at the end, and that's it. And that a fight is about who wins and who loses. A fight is not about our repair attempt afterward. A fight is about a winner and a loser or about this clear cut action step oriented resolution.
Meredith: I would agree with that. I think the winner-loser concept is really big, at least in the couples that I work with. When you're getting into a fight, you feel like there's got to be an outcome. Someone's got to call it. Someone's got to be able to walk away and say I got that one. That one's mine. So, we're here to tell you today that's not the case.
Marina: That's definitely not the case. How I like to think about it as when you're in a relationship, you're one unit. It's either both of you win, or both of you lose. There is no winner or loser. There's either two winners or two losers in a fight. I mean, have you ever had this? I know, I've never walked away from a fight with George feeling great like I'm the winner. I know he's never either.
Meredith: I don't think Tom, and I have done that either. If you feel like you won, you probably pulled out the big guns and steamrolled your partner.
Marina: You probably really hit below the belt, and that little feeling of winning is actually I really made my partner feel horrible. I felt powerful in that moment. Guys, that's not winning. That's actually causing a lot more damage in your relationship than winning. Again, either both of you win, or both of you lose. Both of you lose is both of you walking away from a fight feeling crappy and not making those repair attempts needed to get things back to equilibrium and get back to a good place.
Meredith: So that's what's really important here is that a fight isn't over when there's a winner or a loser. A fight is over when you've repaired your relationship, when you've reconnected, and you decided jointly to move on. One of the ways to make this easier, and this is a quote that I can't for the life of me who said it, but it really has stuck with me over the years. "Fight with me like you love me." In that moment we're fighting with our partner like they're our enemy, you hate them, but you don't hate them. Try to argue like you're arguing with someone that you love and argue with the mindset that we're still going to be in a relationship tomorrow; we're still going to be married tomorrow. We're going to wake up tomorrow and move on with life, so why am I getting into this knock-down drag-out fight with them? Fights should not carry on for days and days. When I hear that in session, it concerns me.
Marina: Me too. I always take that as a huge, huge red flag when couples are like well, "we fought, and then we didn't talk for three days, five days." I've had up to two weeks. My first question is how awful must that have been for both of you? And then, my immediate second question is what message was each of you trying to send by doing that?
Meredith: Yeah, and I think what I usually hear from that question is, "well, I wanted him to know how hurt I was" or "I wanted him to know that I was still angry "or "I wanted her to know that what she did was really wrong." Sometimes I hear "I wanted to punish her. I knew it would upset her if I didn't talk to her for two weeks, so I didn't talk to her because she needs to know what she did was wrong."
Marina: In a way, all of these are examples of what I call a convoluted way of asking for empathy. It's kind of like what we talked about in the how to get divorced episode. It's a really bad tool trying to get to a really important need. Again, are you being strategic? Is that really the best way to communicate I'm hurting? When you say I want to punish my partner, I think what a lot of couples are really saying is I want my partner to know how I feel in this moment. Is that strategically getting you to where you want to be?
Meredith: I don't think so. In my marriage, Tom and I, we don't ever, we don't go to bed angry. That is one of our goals. I know that's a bit of an old school saying, but I really believe in that. Barring a really significant argument where you really need the time and space of overnight to physiologically calm down and regroup, we don't let it go that long. We resolve it that night, and we move on. We've never not spoken for a day or three days or five days. I can't imagine what that feels like.
Marina: By resolving do you mean writing out a contract of actionable steps that both of you sign and agree to and start executing right away?
Meredith: I don't mean that. When I say resolving, I mean that we agree to move on, whether or not we have come to a solution. We agree to move on with our day and our night and connect and enjoy each other's company and talk and be regular, be loving.
Marina: That's great. So, I guess that leads us to the bigger question. What does repair look like? What can repair look like?
Meredith: That's a good point. I always use the term the olive branch. Who's extending the olive branch? You get into an argument. Usually, it ends in a huff, right? Nobody's talking to each other, you just are in the same space, or you're nearby, and then someone says "what do you want to do for dinner or want to go to Starbucks or do you want to go for a walk?" Someone breaks the silence. Someone reaches out and invites the other person in some way back into their world. I feel like that's a really benign repair attempt. It doesn't take a lot.
Marina: It doesn't, and it doesn't need to be big. And, I think the other person's role is in that moment to shed the defenses and to really be receptive to that repair attempt. I think that's what can be really hard. I mean, I can speak from a personal level, that used to be quite hard for me to get out of that woe is me, ruminating on the things I wish I would have said and where I wish I would have jabbed harder and gone for the jugular more and really accept that repair attempt and really take that olive branch. I think that's a two person process. When you're in that mindset, like you said earlier, fight with me like I'm someone you love, when you remember that, it's much easier to grab onto that olive branch.
Meredith: And to appreciate it, right? To appreciate, if you think about the fact that when you hear that from your partner, to frame that as my partner cares about me so much that he or she just put aside their feelings, put aside their frustration, their anger, and invited me into their world again, that's pretty big. I know a lot of couples look at it as "they're just trying to pretend everything's fine and everything's not fine.” I hear that a lot. "If they try to go back to normal, but that's just because they don't want to talk about it anymore. They think that I'll just forget." No, this is really constructive and healthy. Accepting the olive branch doesn't mean that this topic never gets brought up again. It means I'm willing to move forward in this day. I love you, and we can talk about it again when we're in a better state of mind.
Marina: I think it's giving a lot of recognition to the fact that we are not going to reach a resolution or even be able to talk about a compromise in this state of mind. Let's let us get back to equilibrium. Let's let us get back to baseline so we can get to a place where we can broach this again in a way that's going to feel a lot more constructive. In a way it's the complete opposite of we're avoiding talking about it. It's being strategic and saying let's create the environment where we can talk about it in a way that's much more conducive to getting somewhere, to getting to empathy, to getting to understanding, to getting to compromise. I don't know about you, but I've never seen a successful act of compromise or empathy or validation when two people are yelling at each other.
Meredith: No, that tends not to happen. That's not going to happen. It's really a good thing. It can be very hard. I know you touched on this, but it can be very hard to extend it. It can be equally hard to accept it. It's really hard because you have to put down your defenses like you said. You have to let it go for the moment and say, "Ok, I love this person. We're still going to be in a relationship tomorrow. Yes, let's talk about dinner, let's go for a walk. Let's do that and move on." One of the ways that I talk to one of my couples about how to implement this is for both partners to make a commitment. I commit to accepting the olive branch if you extend it. If you know your partner is going to accept it, it's a bit easier to extend it. What's really hurtful is when one person says, "hey, what do you want to do for dinner," and their partner doesn't respond or says something not to respect that.
Marina: So rejecting, right? You just made yourself vulnerable in a way extending that olive branch, is like a real act of vulnerability. You're really putting yourself out there saying "I've shed my differences." Talk about rejection and how likely are you to try that again? None of us are gluttons for punishment who want rejection over and over again. That's why I think it's really important when the olive branch is extended to really accept it.
Meredith: 100%. Both partners committing to that is very helpful. The other piece is you have to get into the mindset. We talked about flooding in episode four and how to handle it. This totally applies. You have to get in the mindset. You have to physiologically sooth your body so you can turn off your fight or flight response, you can get in your rational brain, you can get back your sense of empathy, and you can make an informed decision of extending or accepting that olive branch.
Meredith: Really important.
Marina: I think to go along with getting into that mindset, I think for some people who may be a little new to this, or this may be a new concept to them, accepting the olive branch doesn't mean that the disagreement is resolved. It just means you're moving in a positive direction. I know if it's a really big issue for you and you feel like it's unresolved and it's so deregulating and it's so frustrating, and you're just like, "I just want a solution here," the reality is you're not going to get to that solution being up here. Extending the olive branch is not you losing. It's not you being weak. It's not you losing your ground on an issue that's really important to you. It's really you saying, "I want to get to a place where we can talk about this."
Meredith: Yeah, definitely. It can be frustrating. By no means are we saying this isn't frustrating. It's absolutely frustrating. It's difficult. It's probably a shift in higher thinking about arguing than what you may have been thinking before, but this is reality.
Marina: I think we said in the beginning, all happy couples fight. I know this is something that - George and I fight. We have disagreements, but I know if we get into a fight, our commitment is we don't alter our plans. If we have plans to go out to dinner or date or to take our dog on a walk, we stick to those plans. What we don't want to communicate in our relationship is that a fight causes a disruption to the things we like to do. A fight is just that. It's an exception. It has a beginning, middle, and end. When it ends, we resume. A lot of times if we get into a fight about something that either one of us thinks is really pertinent, in that calm down phase and that resolution phase, we'll make a time to discuss the topic. It probably won't be the same day, but we usually try to stick to within two or three days where we'll know, and we'll be prepared, and we're ready to enter that discussion in a way that's calm, in a way that's rationale where we can literally bring our points to the table and make our feelings heard. It gives us some time individually to reflect on "where did I go wrong, where did I get heated, why was that a trigger point for me, and how can I manage that better when we sit and discuss this in a far more genuine way?" So that there isn't this feeling of this important issue as being ignored.
Meredith: That's a great point. I actually just saw that with a couple recently where I had them write down things, thoughts, feelings, things that stood out to them after there was a difficult conversation. Go home that night, write down anything that's in your head, anything that's stuck there, how you're feeling, what you're thinking. Then we met not so far after that. When we met to talk about what they had written down. Looking back I heard from them was, "you know what, when I wrote this I was feeling so strongly, but now that I'm reading it, it doesn't really resonate with how I'm feeling just a day or two later." I think that's really telling about if you can just reconnect, move forward, give yourself some time, and then come back to the table. You're going to be having a much more constructive conversation.
Marina: I think there's your visual representation of your flooded state. The proof is in the pudding there in terms of you're not yourself when you're flooded. How you think and feel when you're flooded, even though in that moment it feels so real and so powerful, it's not how you think the other 167 hours of the week. I think that is such a powerful exercise to go through here, with your coach, at home, to realize and have that visual proof of the feelings and thoughts I have in a flooded state are not how I generally feel overall.
Meredith: Definitely. I think that's a big part of extending the olive branch is having realization that I was a little not myself. My self-self, my nonflooded self really loves this person and really cares about this person and wants things to feel positive and wants to engage in our rituals of connection and wants to have the good communication and have the intimacy. I'm not going to let this angry, flooded state that's temporary, that has a beginning, middle, and end, impact the rest of the time with my partner.
Meredith: That's really important. This is a really big one, being able to resolve an argument, being able to not let it drag on and on. This is a really foundational component of having a simply great relationship. We hope that you don't just listen to this episode, but take the tools and start implementing them right away. We've made it easier for you because we've created a really great PDF. The Win-Win End to an Argument guide, so how to walk out both being winners. You can get that on our website at SimplyGreatRelationships.com/005. We hope you go and download it and take that with you.
Marina: Let's talk about takeaways.
Meredith: Let's talk about takeaways. Oh my gosh.
Marina: What's your big takeaway from resolving fights, ending fights, not letting fights drag on or be super impactful?
Meredith: I think what you shared, actually, I feel like it's very tangible if you put it that way of "we don't let fights change our plans." As you were saying that, I'm thinking of couples or even myself many years ago. "Well, then I'm not going. We had a fight, or I'm mad at you, so let's just not go. Let's stay home and be angry." That cycle of disappointment and withholding positive experiences, it's kind of spiteful in some ways. That cycle can be really, really strong. I think that's a great way to conceptualize it. Not letting an argument change what you already had planned is a really black and white way to take a big step forward in this area.
Marina: I used to totally be that person. Well, "I'm not going, I'm not doing this, I'm not in the mood now," and I would sit and ruminate in my own hurt feelings. It didn't get me to where I wanted to be. I realized I'd sit and sulk in these horrible feelings, and I didn't want to feel that way. The reality is I have control over how I feel the large majority of the time. How many times has it happened to you that you didn't really want to go out and maybe you weren't in the mood because you did have a little tiff that day? But, you went out, and you had a great time, and it was really connecting, and it was awesome. You're like I'm so happy we went out."
Marina: I think that happens to a lot of couples. You really need to give that credit.
Meredith: That's a really big one. What about for you? What's your takeaway?
Marina: My takeaway is what you talked about, which is writing down what your thoughts and feelings were in that flooding state to really see this is not how I feel two days later. I'm not locked in. These are not dogma. These are not beliefs I'm locked into. I think that is so, so, so powerful. I know when you're in that state, those thoughts and feelings do feel like dogma. They feel so real and so powerful, but to have that visual representation and then say "this isn't how I feel any more" and to be able to connect with that moment can be de-escalating so that you're not getting to that flooded state. I think it can be such a valuable tool to say just because I felt that way then doesn't mean I feel that way most of the time.
Meredith: Absolutely, I think that's a great one too. I like how we can take away from each other. We spend a lot of time talking. This is not the only time we chat. This is really fun to learn new things for sure. We hope you're having as much fun as we are. That's all for today, so we hope you take these tips and start using them right away. Definitely go back and download the “Win-Win End to an Argument” guide. We think it will help you a lot. We'd really like to continue the conversation with you in our private Facebook group. We're going to hook you up with tips, tricks, and live streams exclusively for our members. You can find the group and join us at Facebook.com/groups/SimplyGreatRelationships, or you can go to our website, SimplyGreatRelationhips.com and click the link. We hope you'll join us there. Ask any questions you want. We'd really love to hear what strategies you've been taking away and using and how it's been going. It's always interesting to hear feedback and see how different couples integrate it into their relationships in different ways.
Marina: How you're applying things and how they're working in your relationship. If we're missing stuff, if you're doing awesome stuff and we're not touching on, and we need to share it with the universe, we'd also love to hear from you.
Meredith: Absolutely. So, definitely get in there, let us know what's going on. Until next time, have a good week. We'll catch up with you soon. Bye-bye.