Re­la­tion­ships – Fight­ing fair

Do you avoid ar­gu­ments or are you a hot-head? Find out what type of a fighter you are.

True Love - - Contents - By STEFANIE CLAASEN

When you’re in a re­la­tion­ship and ar­gu­ments be­come a com­mon oc­cur­rence, you may end up doubt­ing your re­la­tion­ship. But con­flict is no rea­son to panic, says psy­chol­o­gist Dr Max Blum­berg. “Ar­gu­ments are a nat­u­ral and nec­es­sary part of any re­la­tion­ship. Part­ners have un­avoid­able dif­fer­ent ob­jec­tives at cer­tain times. If there’s no con­flict, you aren’t deal­ing with the is­sues that au­to­mat­i­cally arise from the fact that you’re two in­di­vid­u­als.”

Blum­berg says it’s not the fact that we ar­gue, but the way we do so that mat­ters. “Ar­gu­ments fol­low pat­terns. For ex­am­ple, they may erupt from nowhere, or al­ways build grad­u­ally. Most of us have de­vel­oped a par­tic­u­lar con­flict style, usu­ally learnt from watch­ing our par­ents man­age their dif­fer­ences. Un­der­stand­ing yours can help you find ways to re­solve your dif­fer­ences more ef­fec­tively.”

Read on to dis­cover your mode of ar­gu­ing – and how it could ben­e­fit your re­la­tion­ship.

PEACE­FUL DOVE

You don’t en­joy ar­gu­ing and when a row oc­curs, you see it as your re­spon­si­bil­ity to cool things off, even if it means back­ing down. For ex­am­ple, your part­ner comes home from work in a foul mood and com­plains that there’s no food in the house. You know he could eas­ily have picked up some­thing on his way home, but in­stead of point­ing this out, you pacify his mood and head out to the shops.

Fix it: “Peace­mak­ers don’t avoid con­flict com­pletely, but they tend to with­draw from it as quickly as pos­si­ble,” says Blum­berg. “Mak­ing peace is com­mon in women with low self-es­teem. Their be­hav­iour isn’t as neg­a­tive as avoid­ance since it isn’t based on fear but on the de­sire for a peace­ful ex­is­tence. But you may find re­sent­ment brews be­cause you are con­tin­u­ally com­pris­ing. En­sure that you don’t be­come a door­mat. Start stand­ing up for your­self. Change things gen­tly. Stick to your guns, and he’ll soon get used to it. If your man is al­ways the one keep­ing the peace, check that you aren’t tak­ing ad­van­tage of his will­ing­ness to back down.”

PER­SIS­TENT SNAKE

You make your feel­ings known, but rather than air prob­lems, you silently sit and wait for your part­ner to no­tice some­thing ’s wrong. Your tech­niques in­clude sulky si­lences, nag­ging and moan­ing. You of­ten man­age to re­solve con­flict, but it’s a slow and tir­ing process.

Fix it: “You ex­pect your man to know what’s wrong, then get an­noyed when he doesn’t read your mind,” ex­plains Blum­berg. “You make griev­ances known in what you think are ‘sub­tle’ ways, but which are, in fact, just sneaky. This is a de­struc­tive tac­tic as it pro­longs the ar­gu­ment. Next time a row is brew­ing, ask your­self whether the in­ten­tion is to hurt your man or fix the is­sue. And if he’s the one to favour this style, tell him you’d rather he just talks about prob­lems.”

ANX­IOUS OSTRICH

You’d rather stick your head in the sand than ex­plain your point of view. Per­haps re­sent­ment is bub­bling in­side you, but you smile and don’t say a word. You’re afraid of con­fronta­tion; you’ll ig­nore is­sues rather than tackle them. But it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore things blow up.

Fix it: “The psy­cho­log­i­cal term for this style is ‘avoid­ance’,” says Blum­berg. “If ei­ther, or both, of you is an ostrich, you may never ar­gue be­cause your fear of con­flict is so great, you avoid con­fronta­tion. But while this appears to be a good thing, dan­ger lurks be­neath the sur­face. Dif­fer­ences are ig­nored, but this means re­sent­ments can build un­til one

person leaves. “If you’re the ostrich, look into your past to dis­cover where your fear of con­flict orig­i­nates. Then talk to your part­ner about cre­at­ing a safe space to share your feel­ings. Un­der­stand that be­ing with an ostrich can be tough as your part­ner may feel un­able to voice his opin­ions. If your man is the ostrich, coax him to­wards a more pos­i­tive style of con­flict by let­ting him know that although you may lose your tem­per ev­ery now and again, you al­ways love him. And agree to take time out if things get heated.”

UN­PRE­DICTABLE WHALE

You love a good ar­gu­ment and see it as a way to let off emo­tional steam. You prob­a­bly even look for­ward to it. Af­ter all, you can al­ways apol­o­gise, and mak­ing up can be fun. You may thrive on the ex­cite­ment your fights bring to a re­la­tion­ship. You tell your­self it keeps your part­ner on his toes.

Fix it: “Be­ing a com­bustible type who gets off on reg­u­lar bouts of fall­ing out and mak­ing up is fine, as long as you’re with some­one who en­joys the emo­tional roller-coaster ride as much as you do,” says Blum­berg.

“Con­fronta­tion is a good way to clear the air as long as it re­solves an is­sue, but be­ware of fight­ing for fight­ing’s sake. If this is your ar­gu­ing style, ask your­self whether a row re­ally will help to re­solve things be­tween you and your part­ner, or if you’re us­ing it to de-stress, and if there isn’t a health­ier way to do so.

“You’ll know early on in the re­la­tion­ship if your man is like this. If he is, and you don’t en­joy fight­ing, you’ll need to de­cide if you can cope with the in­ten­sity.”

WISE OWL

You gen­uinely want to find a so­lu­tion to prob­lems without any­one get­ting hurt. You lis­ten to your man’s view­point, and may have al­ready de­vel­oped strate­gies to en­sure dis­cus­sions don’t be­come heated. You want the best out­come for your re­la­tion­ship, and feel con­sid­er­a­tion and com­pro­mise are the right ways to achieve this.

Fix it: “This is prob­a­bly the con­flict style we all as­pire to, but it isn’t al­ways the most re­al­is­tic,” says Blum­berg. “We’re hu­man, so while we’d like to think we can re­main calm and ma­ture dur­ing ar­gu­ments, in re­al­ity we of­ten strug­gle to con­tain our emo­tions. If you can use the style some of the time, you’re do­ing well, so go easy on your­self if you oc­ca­sion­ally lose your tem­per. If your man is like this, you may need to im­prove your com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills to sur­vive, be­cause long term, some­one like this won’t be able to han­dle it if you cry, ex­plode or fail to ex­press your­self.”

DE­FEN­SIVE SKUNK

When­ever you be­come aware that a dis­agree­ment is brew­ing, you try to pre­vent it with pre-emp­tive strikes. Your be­hav­iour can in­clude lay­ing down the law by say­ing things like, ‘You aren’t al­lowed to talk to any woman while you’re out’ and is­su­ing threats such as, ‘If you get in late, I’m leav­ing you.’ For you, at­tack is the best form of de­fence and you try to ex­ert con­trol over cer­tain is­sues.

Fix it: “The idea that hav­ing an ar­gu­ment is about at­tack, is flawed. A ma­ture ar­gu­ment is about air­ing and re­solv­ing dis­agree­ments. If you’re in a re­la­tion­ship where the only way to sur­vive is by strik­ing out, or if you’re with some­one who be­haves this way, it’s prob­lem­atic as con­tin­ual low-level con­flict is more stress­ful than a oneoff row. Con­sider see­ing a re­la­tion­ship coun­sel­lor,” ad­vises Blum­berg.

TOUGH BULL­DOG

You never shy away from an ar­gu­ment, al­ways giv­ing as good as you get. But your hard ex­te­rior hides a fear of be­ing hurt and although you’re not afraid to ar­gue, you don’t en­joy it. You find dis­agree­ment painful and pre­fer to face prob­lems head-on rather than com­pro­mise on what you be­lieve in.

Fix it: “If this is your con­flict style, ad­dress the rea­sons you feel the need to show a tough ex­te­rior, as your com­bat­ive per­sona may es­ca­late con­flict,” says Blum­berg. “Any ar­gu­ment that in­volves pos­tur­ing is bad as it’s game play­ing. If this is how you re­solve con­flict, tell your man about your back­ground and how ar­gu­ing makes you feel.” If it doesn’t help, seek coun­selling. Is this is your man’s pre­ferred ar­gu­ing style? En­cour­age him to open up to you about why he fears be­ing hurt.

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