Can't Fight Fair? Fight Fast.

I’m not a fair fighter. When it’s time to argue, I aim precisely and always hit my mark. My insight and intuition allow me to find my opponent’s most vulnerable spot and target it with accuracy.

All of which makes me an incredible asset if we are going to war. Not so much if we are fighting each other. (Even less so in a heartfelt relationship.)

The problem is that everything I know about fighting comes from a simple premise: there is a winner and a loser. A victor and a fail-er. My only job is to get in there and win.

Of course, given my peaceful origins, I prefer that the fight be non-violent - which is why I am so good at using my words, gathering evidence and building a case that shows why I am right (and he is wrong) and arguing it with a calm (albeit patronizing) tone. After all, if I am right (which I generally am), then all I am doing is being patient while he listens to my arguments and figures this out. If he argues back, I’ll escalate to yelling, if that doesn’t work, I’ll get to tears, and when that doesn’t work I’ll threaten to walk. I’m not recommending any of this - just sharing what most of our arguments look like.

I appreciate that this is the opposite of what the experts recommend: no cursing, no blaming, no yelling and never (ever) bring up the D-word. Sound advice that I just can’t seem to follow.

Call me passionate.

Instead what I have noticed is that our fights have picked up speed, like fast forwarding through the commercials of my favorite show — we skip through much of the drama so we can get to the heart of the issue. Here’s what I have observed:

  1. The best way to end a fight quickly is not to start it at all — if we see an argument coming we’ll try and avoid it — especially if we haven’t eaten, slept or worked out. Better to get one of those in before engaging. (Yes, in that case, best to go to bed mad and get some sleep before starting up again).

  2. If the fight comes, it comes. He yells, I yell — all gloves are off. A discussion of what is or isn’t fair is irrelevant, as is anything other than what is happening in the moment (you always and you never are off the table). We don’t get sidetracked by how we should be feeling or acting — sometimes that physical release is helpful for us to understand what we’re fighting about.

  3. This last one being the main goal — what the heck are we fighting about? More often than not, it isn’t what we think it is. But rather a need that we each (or both) have, that isn’t being met. This is where the fighting shifts to a collaboration. We become teammates in figuring out what is bothering us so that we can figure out the source. If this sounds cold, it’s cuz it is. After all, we’re in the middle of an argument! We may be capable of working together, but it doesn’t mean we’re no longer annoyed. We’re collaborating for efficiency’s sake with a goal to move through quicker so we can begin negotiations.

A successful negotiation being the goal of any good fight. Because that’s what we’re doing here: figuring out how to best navigate what I want versus what he wants in a way that serves us both. A give and take situation that requires the old standbys: listening, listening and a willingness to work it out. (Sometimes just this is enough to remind you of what you’re yearning for -- ‘ooooh, I think I need some alone time with you. Or with myself.)

Knowing your self and what you need makes the negotiation easier. You may not always get exactly what you want (it’s a negotiation, no one is getting exactly what they want!) but you’ll get to figure out what you want, which can be a huge relief, and you’ll get to feel the support of your loved one in the trenches with you as you work together towards a resolution.

Or no resolution.

Maybe it’s experience or wisdom or maybe we’re just getting too damn old, but lately it seems our preferred way out of a fight is just to call it. ‘I don’t wanna fight anymore’ is one of the sweetest things my husband can say to me, and my ‘yeah, me neither’ is music to his ears.