He fights… for what’s right, for the people he cares about, for the power of love, against adversity, to make a difference. He fights… for the cause, for answers, for truth, for honor, for justice. He fights fires. He fights apathy. He fights for his life.
He fights in France and he fights on the oceans and the seas. He fights with growing confidence and growing strength. He fights on the beaches and the landing grounds, in the fields, in the streets, and in the hills.
He never surrenders.
The strength of his hands may be required from time to time, but his fight is not physical. He does not fight for bragging rights or to prove someone else wrong. He does not fight for the sake of fighting itself. He does not fight in a fit of rage.
He fights for principles and values. For people, not things. He fights the good fight and though he may be fueled by passion, he’s bridled by experience and tempered with wisdom. He knows that the most powerful weapons in any fight are the ones that no one actually sees him use.
Real men are fighters.
P.S. Fighting in France has nothing to do with being a real man. I just thought this was a good opportunity to paraphrase Winston Churchill.
Let’s face it. “Super sized” any-food is too much unless we’re talking about athletes, extremely physically active people or adolescent boys. I once saw a six-foot, thin-as-a-rail boy down two super sized Mc-Meals without blinking an eye…his body was a consuming machine, growing nightly and amazing those around him daily. But for most of us, the super sized phenomenon has resulted in a proverbial thunder thighs and badonk-a-donk butt plague gripping America by the cholesterol-packed veins.
But this essay isn’t about America’s battle of the bulge. Rather, it’s about the something else that makes you feel like you’ve just eaten way too many calories and and you can’t shake the weight of what’s getting you down: a super sized conflict with someone you love.
When someone begins eating healthy, the first thing they usually have to do is come to terms with what it is they are actually putting in their mouth. Sometimes you look at a plate of food and it just doesn’t seem that 1200 calories are sitting there waiting for you to engage. It’s the same thing with fights…people rarely understand how they started, the result is overwhelming and they feel as thought they bit off way more than they could chew. And…frequently they experience physical symptoms like indigestion!
However, if you break down a Big Mac into all its parts, you can see what you’re getting yourself into. From the seventies we know this is…
And, once you know what you’re getting into sometimes it seems easier to make choices that affect outcomes. For a Big Mac, we could pull off the middle layer of bread, one of the patties, all of the sauce and have a moderately decent meal. For fights, however, the ingredients are invisible. Here’s the list: feeling, action, intent, interpretation, and response…FAIIR. And, fair fighting is something the world could all use more of so we’ll stick with that acronym to help you remember our anatomy lesson.
Generally about this time in an article I would provide an example of an argument. However, I think what I’d like you to do instead is think back to one you’ve had recently. What was it about? How did it start? Got it in your head? Okay…here’s the breakdown –
Feelings There are feelings surrounding every action, interpretation and response in an argument. Identifying those feelings and being clear about them is the first order of business. If you started it, what were you feeling? Sometimes you have “feeling salad” wherein you have several at the same time. Make sure and list them all.
Action Usually the feeling precedes the action; feelings are the propulsion, so to speak, for your move. So, what did you do? What action did you take? Sometimes a fight is precipitated by feelings and the action becomes “shutting down.” It doesn’t always have to be a forward-motion behavior. It’s important to note, however, that there is always an intent for the action.
Intent Here is a major key for you – most all intentions within normal couple fights are positive. It’s actually a positive thing to want to resolve an issue. It’s a positive thing to want the fighting to stop. It’s a positive thing to think you’re protecting someone’s feelings. It’s a positive thing to try to change something that’s not working. Even though your partner may not view your action as having a positive intent, it usually does…even if that intent is only to protect yourself because you’re feeling attacked. That’s a positive action! No one wants to feel attacked!
Interpretation The next part of the argument, however, is the interpretation. In most every fight, the “intent” of one person is “interpreted” in a negative manner. This is where the real problems lie. A history of hurts pile up and so many times interpretations are based upon historical “sameness,” even if this fight is different. Further, negative intents are often labeled (correctly) as “mind-reading.” No human being can read minds, have ESP about another’s feelings, or judge what an intent really is…you’re just not that good. Neither am I. But over time, trust erodes when fights continue and it’s difficult to remember that your partner is a living, breathing, autonomous person with their own thoughts and feelings. So, this is where you need to be the most cautious: assumptions of negative intent are toxic.
Response You can tell where this is going now, right? If you have an behavior that was feeling inspired, had a positive intent, but then a negative interpretation…the logical “response” would be to then counter with a behavior that is feeling inspired, has a positive intent, but will probably be negatively interpreted. This is how humans, and for that matter pretty much most of the animal kingdom, are engineered. And many times, we can’t even really identify where these fights began or how they ended.
If this type of escalation continues, it becomes super sized. And before you know it, your relationship may have some pretty heavy baggage (thunder thighs) to slowly repair with healthier interactions. However, the cool thing about healthier eating and exercise, AND about healthy communications and interactions, are that they make a difference immediately. And both, over a longer period of time, can radically change your outlook on life.
Envisioning a relationship with healthy communication (clear, open and FAIIR dialogue) feels good doesn’t it? As I think about it, I am experiencing absolutely NO indigestion!
(Now that you know the anatomy of a fight, follow THIS LINK to learn what you can do better to avoid some of that mess I just shared with you!)
After you do that, if you’re still not there…write us and we’ll get you more resources. Thanks.
I sat in the dark, staring up at the aging, Jewish researcher sporting his yarmulke and hunkering over the lectern on stage. He had the rapt attention of 3,500 marriage and family therapists as he intertwined his lifetime of research, vulnerable and human stories of his own marriage, and a joke here or there. John Gottman was on a roll.
I had heard most of his speech before, but noticed that his personal examples were getting more poignant. He had peeled back a few layers of caution; a nice trait you rarely see in addresses to such large audiences. I was about to lean over to my colleague, Suzanne, for the twentieth time (we had been whispering back and forth, making those “aww” noises when he would say something heartfelt…you know, the classic therapist speaker-interaction behavior), when Gottman’s words stopped me. He was saying, “You know…getting into one of those really crazy intense conflicts with a partner is like checking into a roach motel.”
I forgot what I was going to whisper to Suzanne and began to search frantically for my Blackberry instead. Digging around in my purse proved rather noisy and I received three “shame-on-you” glares by the time I found the thing. I didn’t care. The Memo Pad on my phone needed a notation. I pulled up my “Relationship” file and typed in: “Negative conflictual escalation like a roach motel…check in, but can’t check out…runnin, dark, worst selves”
The fact that I correctly typed all words but “running” in the dark on that tiny keypad pleasantly surprised me. I hit “save” and turned my attention back to the spotlighted man on stage. He was already into something else cool and I had missed half of the lead-in. I decided not to ask Suzanne to catch me up lest I receive more glares from those around me.
I made six more notes before the speech ended, but my mind kept jumping back to the Roach Motel metaphor. It was true. Roaches follow the bait into a place they really shouldn’t go. They can’t get out and really have no idea how they got there in the first place. They enter quickly, into a dark and sticky place and become immobilized. Stuck there with the others who did the same thing. Not a pretty sight.
Couples do this. People do this. Someone drops the “bait,” another begins to follow the trail and before they know it they’re both stuck in dark and sticky fight they can’t leave. Once those involved engage in a negative and escalating sequence, the fight usually builds until it explodes…or until it dies down and simmers for a very long time. Neither of these potential endings are desirable.
Gottman went on to say that at any given time, based upon everything else going on in a person’s life, the probability that one person in a relationship can be “emotionally available” or “attuned” to their partner is 50%. Put that with another person who is also attuned at a 50% probability level, multiply them together and the result becomes this: At any given time a couple is together, they might BOTH be emotionally aware or available to their partner 25% of the time. The other 75% of the time could potentially end up in a dark, sticky place with both trying desperately to get out of what they just entered.
I’ve been there. Have you? In the middle of a conflict with someone you love and you just can’t get out? So where’s the “Emergency Exit?” Gottman called these times “Sliding Door Moments.” He coined the phrase from a Gwenyth Paltrow movie that Suzanne said ‘wasn’t really that good, but must have had redeeming values to provide this metaphor.’ (Yes, she whispered that to me during the speech.) Sliding Door moments basically boil down to a split-second of time where you reach out, slide away the glass and open up yourself to the other person in the fight.
Gottman described one of these moments wherein he noticed his wife was sad. He began brushing her hair and asked, “What’s the matter, baby?” She disclosed to him that her mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and she couldn’t grasp the fact that she was going to die in such a difficult manner. He said that the moment before he “attuned” to her sad face, he wanted his own needs met. He chose, instead, to ask her about the look on her face. He wasn’t in a conflict with her at the time, but they were definitely in that 25% time where neither were really regarding the other. An escalation could have easily happened.
So how do you find a Sliding Door moment in the middle of a Roach Motel fight? Look at their face. Your partner is hurting, they’re sad, they’re angry, they’re alone…they need something. You stop, slide the door open, and think about what they’re really trying to say to you. You might not necessarily have to pick up the hairbrush and begin stroking their hair, but you CAN connect with them and ask, “What’s really the matter, baby?” Some people call it a time out. Some people call this slowing things down. I call it realizing your partner is a human being with feelings and thoughts.
Chances are, they’ll look into your eyes and see the exit. Isn’t it nice how Emergency Exit signs illuminate a dark place?
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