In the previous post we discussed the importance of using “I” statements when talking to your partner. This is one of the most important parts of fair fighting to master. However, another key feature of the fair fight is not throwing stones. Now you may be thinking “I have never thrown anything at my partner” or “I don’t throw stones, but dishes and the occasional cell phone have been fair game!” This is not what I mean by “throwing stones.” Throwing stones refers to any of those times when we engage in damaging and hurtful fighting with our partners. This can manifest itself as bring up past hurts, engaging in name calling, or making wild accusations. You can almost always identify a wild accusation because they typically start with the words “always” or “never,” these two words should be avoided during any fight!
By this point you probably understand what “throwing stones” looks like. If you are struggling to communicate with your partner and find yourself fighting a lot you can probably recall some specific examples of times when you and your partner were caught up in this cycle of stone throwing. They say something hurtful so you respond with something that you know will be even more hurtful. Suddenly you are caught in a cycle of trying to be the meanest one in the fight in an attempt to win. The truth of this situation is that no one is going to win; both parties are going to walk away from this fight the loser.
How do we stop this cycle? The first step is to examine your bag of stones. What resentments, hurts, and anger are you caring with you into your fights? Are you mad because your partner made a bad joke about your mother 10 years ago? Are you holding things against your partner that you claim to have forgiven? Go through you bag of stones and try to understand why you are holding on to each of them. Understanding your stones, what they mean to you and how to let them go is the first step in ending these fights. The hardest part of healing is owning what we bring to the table. Once we understand our own stones and why we are caring them around it is much easier to set them down and not pick them back up when emotions are running high.
Clearly in an ideal world both partners are working on unpacking their stones together and are committed to learning to fight fair. However, even if your partner is not ready to unpack their stones yet there can still be success here. It takes two people to fight! If you have set down your bag of stones and refuse to throw them it will be hard for your partner to continue to throw stones at you. Simply throwing up your hands and saying “I am sorry but this discussion is not going the way I wanted it to, can we take a break and come back to it later,” can be a powerful way to stop a fight and give everyone a break to calm down and return to the discussion in a more rational way later.
Ending this cycle can be a lot of trial and error, especially if you and your partner have been engaging in this type of fighting for a long time. However, you can end the cycle and begin fostering positive and healthy communication.
If you or your partner would like help in unpacking your bags and ending this cycle, Chrysalis Counseling LLC is here to help. Please contact Michele, MFT Intern at 417-322-4033 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Claudine Miller, LPC at 314-780-8328 or email@example.com.