From working with my clients and doing the mind/body work I do, I came to realize that there are two main reasons why people fight in relationships:
- When we are afraid that we are going to be abandoned.
- When we are afraid that we will never be loved the way we want to be loved.
And one often creates the other.
I had this one couple, married for a quite a while, come to see me with a typical story of this dynamic. The woman was coaching with me alone at first because she was having anxiety attacks and nothing had been able to help her. She wanted to get to the root of this problem as she realized that she could not keep on living this way.
Doing our work together she realized that she had been living her life for her husband, saying no to herself for years. She had grown up in a household where the men were kings. Like many of us in our twenties, she did not question the ways she had grown up, got married and did what she felt a good wife should do. She had not understood yet that true love is wanting the best for another while respecting our needs.
She started to see that if she did not change the dynamics between her and her husband, she was going to get sicker or she would have to leave: she could not keep going living this way.
Naturally as she was working on regaining her true self, she was changing patterns that had been established for years and her husband felt threatened. He was feeling like she was going to leave him and that would bring big defensive outbursts.
If she tried to reach him and explain what she was really trying to do, he would set off on a ten minute monologue about how he had done all kinds of things for her and would make sure she could not get her point across, which only made her feel more like he would never understand her. This created more anxiety for her and a feeling that she was trapped in a life that she did not want any longer. She was feeling like she was never going to be loved the way she wanted to be loved. And she was removing herself emotionally… This would trigger his fears of abandonment and there would be huge fights where neither party would listen to each other and they would continue being stuck in a bad pattern.
The best and simplest strategy I can give to change these dynamics is using the YOU, ME, US. I love this strategy as it is very simple and it takes care of the two main reasons we fight in relationships just as it takes care of the two main fears.
For example, let’s say you reminded your partner that you will be cooking dinner on Wednesday night and how much you are looking forward to it. You go shopping, buy the best ingredients, flowers, get the whole meal ready, nice wine with candle lights and your partner shows up late having completely forgotten about it.
It’s really easy to get upset in this type of scenario. This is when we need to remember why it is we got together in the first place: because we want to learn to love because when we love, we feel happy.
Each challenge presented to us in a relationship is an opportunity to learn to love, and that is a gift. One way of using this strategy would be to sincerely ask about your partner’s day, what’s going on and then use the YOU, ME, US It can look something like:
“I know you had a very challenging day at the office and things did not work out so well for you and that’s why you forgot. Me on my part, I have been looking forward to this special evening together for quite a few days now and I put a lot of effort into it. So what can we do to make sure that this does not happen again and that both of us feel loved and respected in the relationship so that we can have more love and fun together?”
By using this strategy you take care of the two fears: That one of the partners will never be loved the way they want to be loved and that you are not going to be abandoning the other one because you are looking for a solution that will bring you closer together.
I am glad to report that my sweet couple has been willing to let go of their ego and that they chose their heart over it. Both have been willing to be more conscious and use the strategies they felt would work best for them. They have been growing in trust which each other by seeing how they are willing to be gentle when other times they would have engaged in a fight. They both have been engaged in learning how to love the other, in wanting the best for each other while respecting their needs. And I am so happy for them because learning how to love is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and that’s how you can both truly win in an argument.