Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Let's Fight, I'm Right

Let’s Fight, I’m Right
            A reader sent this email to us and ask us to respond. “Dr. T and  Dr. Jan – I have been in several relationships over the last few years (I am 34 year old and single) but they all seem to have the same pattern. They start in fun, open communication and then digress over time to a place of conflict and non-communication. I am willing to admit that I am part of the problem, but what is going on that causes this to happen.  If you need more information, let me know, but I am really tired of the pattern.  JW.”
JW – Thanks for your email. First thought to consider is that conflict is always part of a relationship; we just don’t want it to be the entire relationship. Conflict is simply the meeting of different opinions. Fighting is when we try to force the other person to change their opinion to ours. (See our blog “I vs WE”. )
So why do we end up in a highly conflicted relationship? My first thought is “the relationship probably reflects the inner turmoil of one or both of the participants in the relationship.” If I am in conflict with my own life, I will carry that conflict to others. Most fights are simply continuing rituals that develop as a place of expressing energy, but accomplishing nothing. Rituals are usually important statements when we begin them, but often fade into unconscious repetition that has little or no conscious meaning. I may have a ritual of brushing my teeth and then having a cup of coffee in the morning. It is not a conscious process, but it is a way of expressing my individuality. The ritual of an argument and fight is the same process. I am aware of how vulnerable I am to the impact of the world around me, so I stand ready to defend myself from every perceived wrong.  If I feel under attack, I will respond out my learned ritual.
In relationships, we develop a better understanding of how the other person will handle life. If I perceive that the other person doesn’t handle life as I do, then I may perceive I am under attack and respond accordingly. After a while, we have developed a new ritual of cause and effect, fight all the time, accomplish nothing, and develop even greater mistrust.
 For example, when we first date, you tell me that you like the country rather than the city. I am a city person, but I find your thought interesting and let it go. However, as we continue to relate, I see you refer to the country several times and don’t seem to agree with my thoughts about the beauty of living in the city. As this goes on, I now feel you are threatening me and my views, and I need to defend myself before you topple my “correct “understanding. I personalize your opinion as an attack and now begin to ritually send you negative energy to attempt to overthrow your attacking army. In the meantime, you cannot understand why I am so angry about your liking the country, as you wouldn’t really want to live in the country, but you love to visit the country. Now you have to defend yourself from my attack on the country. And on we go!!!
How do we stop this deterioration?
Stop defending yourself.
We don’t have to agree to be close. If we are very close, we may enjoy the fact that we don’t agree and thus are challenged by someone we can trust. However, if I continue to think I must protect myself from every thought that is different from mine, then I will remain an insecure, lonely person.
JW, try this as a focus thought for a while: I am entitled to my opinion and I don’t have to agree with you. You are entitled to your opinion and you don’t have to agree with me. But I refuse to see your difference of opinion as a threat to me; it is simply your opinion.
If you still feel threatened by the relationship after a few week of making this a conscious evaluation, then it may be time to move on to a safer relationship.
We would love to hear from all who read this blog. Email us at or leave a comment here.

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