Let’s wrap up this first series of blog posts on fighting fair by digging a little deeper into the remaining rules.
RULE #8/9: STAY IN THE PRESENT AND KEEP TO THE TOPIC AT HAND – When we use the words “you always” or “you never”, we are no longer in the present, dealing with the topic at hand. In fact, when using these phrases, it is much more likely that you are dealing with what John Gottman calls a “perpetual issue” around which you are gridlocked with your partner. One sure way of staying gridlocked is to dig through your history, accumulating evidence to substantiate your “rightness” and your partners “wrongness”. There may be a long history of disappointments and frustrations that accrue around a specific theme. If you cannot find a way to navigate these waters effectively, think about going to couples therapy to get some coaching on how to do this.
RULE # 10: TAKE TURNS SPEAKING – One of the first things I do with couples in my office is teach them a new way to communicate. It is simple and elegant, yet complicated to pull off without some coaching and practice. It involves one person speaking as the other deeply listens and attunes to the speaker. It is pretty hard to really attune to another person when we are in our own heads, formulating our response, thinking of all the ways the other is getting it wrong. So, right out of the gate in couples therapy, I teach “listening to understand” versus “listening to respond or react”. There is much more to say about this rule, and I will do so in future posts.
RULE # 13: NO “OFFTHETABLEITIS” – It is unfair and destructive if you or your partner generally or consistently block attempts to bring up topics or raise questions or concerns that are important to either of you. In so doing, the possibility of collaboratively solving a problem is thwarted. It also prematurely aborts opportunities for emotional intimacy. Problem solving and intimacy are closely linked to the ability to safely explore ones feelings, frustrations, fears, etc. How can this happen if one person keeps topics “off the table” for discussion instead of inviting them to be on the table?
This brings us to the end of this series of blog posts on fighting fair. In actuality, we just scratched the surface on each rule. The reality is that relationships are complex because we, as humans, are complex. The good news is that we can choose to do things differently if we want a different outcome in our partnerships. It is possible, with commitment, motivation, a willingness to work hard and large doses of grace for both ourselves and our partners, to transform relationships. I look forward to continued explorations on this journey with you.