I dialed my fiancé’s number for the 5th time. Ring. Ring. “You have reached the voicemail box of…” I hung up. Dialed again. This time there was no ringing, and I knew he had turned off his phone. I was already out the door and en route to his apartment.
When I arrived, I knocked on the door. “We need to talk about this!” “Not tonight,” came his response. “It’s late. Go home.” Eventually I did, feeling anxious about the conversation we didn’t have.
I can’t even remember what we were fighting about. But we did talk about it eventually. It was hard for me to understand why we couldn’t work out our differences right away, but as we went through premarital counseling (as required by our church), our therapist gave me some much needed insight.
Every couple fights differently, but many couples have a “Pursuer/Pursued” relationship. When Russell and I fight, he usually withdraws. He needs time to think about our disagreement. I, on the other hand, have a strong need to work out our problems right away. I don’t like being in conflict, so I tend to “pursue” and push him to resolve our issues. This only causes him to withdraw further.
After I learned this about our “fighting style,” I began to make an effort to give Russell some space when we fought about something. I found that, eventually, he would approach me with his own thoughts and solutions when he had calmed down and thought about our problems. Instead of getting anxious, I tried to think about what I had said, what I could apologize for, and how we could solve our problems.
When we take the time to talk about our differences, we try to take turns speaking and listening. Often I will repeat what I think Russell means back to him, so that if I misunderstand, he can correct me—a trick we learned from a marriage workshop. He will do the same for me. In this way, we are both calm and neither of us feel judged or misunderstood.
Every couple has disagreements and fights. What is most important is how you handle them. If you treat each other with respect and listen carefully, you can work almost anything out!
What have you learned from fighting with your significant other?