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Fight With Your Spouse But Let It Be a Good Fight

Discussion in 'Married Life' started by varalotti, Jul 13, 2005.

  1. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Fight With Your Spouse, But Let It Be a Good Fight



    An Article By Varalotti Rengasamy




    Priya and Rakesh travelled far north for their honeymoon. Priya’s father had thoughtfully booked I AC Coupe for them so that they could travel in total privacy.

    The couple talked sweet nothings on the first day of travel. On the afternoon of the second day they ventured into some controversial topics. They were commenting on their relatives who had attended their wedding.

    When Priya playfully commented about Rakesh’s cousin, he got offended. One word led to another and soon they were engulfed in heated arguments. They stopped talking to each other during the last three hours of their travel.

    Rakesh was seething within when they got down. He left her at the platform saying ‘I’ll be in a minute.’ And he did not return.

    Priya was stranded in the railway station thousands of miles away from home. Somehow or other she managed to return home. She sternly refused to live with Rajesh and they were soon divorced earning for themselves the dubious record of being divorced even before their honeymoon was over.

    This is an extreme case of what fights between couples can lead to. But a milder version of this could be seen in every life.

    Rishi and Latha had planned to go for a movie on a working day. Rishi had asked Latha to go to the theatre in advance and wait for him. He would go there directly from his office. After the movie they had planned to eat out and return home.

    Latha was waiting with the tickets at the cinema-hall getting restless with the stares of by-standers. Rishi was late by half an hour. The movie had started. Latha tore off the tickets in a fit of rage.

    Just then Rishi came running to her. Latha did not shout or make a scene. She spoke in an exceedingly sweet but sarcastic tone, ”Honey, where did you learn this fine art of screwing up every damn plan we make for ourselves?”

    Rishi had a genuine reason for the delay. As he was about to leave his office, he was accosted by his boss who gave him some urgent work. He was ready and willing to apologise also. But when Latha used those strong words of sarcasm he could bear it no longer. He shouted back at her and the couple returned home in a belligrent mood.

    Latha had the right to be angry. But she could have at least listened to Rishi’s explanation. They could have still gone to the movie, even though it had started a few minutes earlier. What could have been a fine evening became an unmitigated disaster.

    The insitution of marriage is not complete without fights big or small, between the spouses,. A marriage where there is no argument, no fight, no heated discussion would be a bland fare not worth living.

    Marriage Counsellors now advise ‘Do fight with your spouse; but let it be a good fight.’ ‘What is a good fight and what is not?’ is a million dollar question that has inspired many brilliant researches in the field of marital relationship.

    Take the case of Marlene who wanted to watch TV news while her husband Michael desperately wanted to watch a football match.

    Michael had his way. But Marlene was not of the type to just grin and bear. She went in to fetch a 0.38 calibre handgun and shot Michael twice at point-blank range. The fact that the husband survived and the wife was charged with assault but later released on bail is beside the point. (This incident was reported by New York Times in 1993.)

    Few of the marital fights are this violent. But many do get out of control and often threaten the very foundation of marriage.

    Scientists are now able to closely monitor the physiological signs in couples when they are fighting – like jumps in blood pressure, adrenaline surges, increase in heart-beats that are tell-tale signs of emotional upsurges that escape human attention. These emotional upsurges constitute the fault lines, along with the whole marriage cracks and crumbles.

    John Gotman, a psychologist from Washington has done 20 years of research in this field. He was able to predict with about 94% accuracy which couples would divorce (within a selected group of couples) within the next three years.

    Gotman and other psychologists are unanimous that a fight gets bad when one or both spouses are in the grip of ‘toxic thoughts.’

    For instance the husband comes home from a bad day in the office and sees a slightly messy drawing room.

    “Why dear, don’t you think that the room requires a little bit of cleaning?”

    He is thinking actually,’She is just idling away the time while I have to slog it out in the office.’

    She is naturally offended by this seemingly polite suggestion. Her blood pressure shoots up, heart-beat jumps and there is a surge of adrenalin. But she suppresses them all to say with equal politeness:

    “I was a little busy with all the cooking and washing today. Anyhow I am going to clean the mess.”

    But she thinks,’When will he stop complaining? He thinks that I have been sleeping all day. Does he know that the washing machine broke down and I had to wash all the clothes with my own hand?’

    He is upset by the insinuation in her response.

    “Do you want me to lend a hand in cleaning up?”

    He means, ’After all I should do all the work whether it is at office or home.’

    “No thanks. I shall do it right now.” She thinks,’You will just do a little cleaning and boast for the rest of your life that you are sharing household work with me.’

    If the subtext of thoughts were taken away from this mundane conversation, it would indicate a very healthy mutually-respecting marriage. But every sweet word uttered conceals a violent thought which strikes at the very root of marital relationship. Part II Follows....
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 14, 2005
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  2. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Fight With Your Spouse But Let It Be A Good Fight II

    Toxic thoughts submerged in a polite conversation like this is a tell-tale sign of marital problems. Toxic thoughts are very powerful and once caught in the train of such thoughts it is very difficult to break their vicious circle and come out of them.

    How to find out whether we have toxic thoughts that spur a conversation like this? A seemingly difficult (but not an impossible) way is to measure your pulse or heart-beat when you are engaged in such a conversation, as suggested by Gotman.

    When you are normal and at peace feel your pulse at the carotid artery below the ear lobe and just above the jaw. While in the midst of a fight you can, if you have enough of awareness to know that you are caught in a fight, feel the pulse without your partner knowing it. If the pulse rate is ten beats per minute more than the normal rate that’s a sign of trouble. You need to quit that fighting then and there because it is a bad fight which can endanger the relationship.

    Many times a husband or wife develop a lot of assumptions about how their partners will react to a particular situation and build-up the conversation in their mind even before it happens in reality.

    An author calls it “Want To Borrow a Jack” syndrome and illustrates with this story.

    John travelling in his car on a country road had a flat tyre. He did not have a jack to change the car tyre. He was near the farmhouse of one of his friends and decided to borrow a jack from him.

    As he was walking to the farmhouse he was visualising the conversation with his acquaintance. ‘What if the friend refused to lend his jack? But then it was only last month that he borrowed my car. I have lent my car to you, can’t you not lend your jack to me? If he still refuses, then I will lash out at his ingratitude and end the friendship then and there.

    He worked himself into a fury and when his friend answered the bell, he could not help shouting, ’ You ungrateful idiot,you are going to lend your jack or not?’

    The friend was justifiably puzzled over this bizarre behaviour.

    Many a marital fight is caused by one of the partners being caught up in ‘Want-to-borrow-a-Jack’ syndrome. When the husband comes late every evening the wife starts to think, ‘may be he has an affair’ which thought sets off a train of even more toxic thoughts so that when one evening when the husband comes home on time, the wife blurts out,’Why so early today? Has your lover deserted you?’

    Or the classical joke about a wife who sees a strand of blonde hair in her husband’s car and shouts at him every day. And one day when she could not see any hair, she started shouting, “And now you have started going out with bald women?”.

    It is very difficult to imagine something more disastrous than this.

    You may like to share this story with your partner and when the partner lashes out an accusation at you later, you can say with a seductive smile,’Want to borrow a jack,darling?’

    The best antidote to toxic thoughts is ‘balancing thoughts.’ If the husband comes late and messes up the plans for evening, the wife can, for instance, think of the time he cared for her when she was bed-ridden or his moral support when she had problems in her office. The balancing thought chokes the progress of the train of toxic thoughts and the situation is quickly brought under control.

    Many husbands prefer an extremely defensive stand when their wives start a fight. They remain stoically silent and isolate themselves from the fight. This way they would not be placating their wives but rather infuriating them. This technique called stonewalling is a potential threat to a marriage. Instead they can listen to their wives assuring them that they have the empathy to see their wives’ point of view, though they are not in a position to accept it.

    The best approach to a marital fight, whether starting it or facing it, is to keep it non-defensive and confined to the specific issue at hand.

    Psychologist Haim Ginott recommends the “XYZ” formula for a good fight. The formula is like this: “When you did X it made me feel Y,and I’d rather you did Z instead.”

    When the husband forgets his wife’s birthday and the wife shouts, “You thoughtless, self-centred bastard! You never remember my birthdays whereas I have never forgotten yours” that is a clear indication that they are in the last throes of their marriage.

    Instead a wife could say “When you forgot my birthday for a second time in a row I felt angry and frustrated. I wish you remember it next time at least.”

    This plea would drive the husband out to buy the costliest gift possible to compensate for his lapse.

    More than anything else if you keep the flame of love hot and burning, any fight will be a good fight that would reinforce the marital ties. And if the love is there your heart would find many spontaneous ways to end a fight in a sweet note.

    There was a seminar on marriage for couples. The couples were asked to list the faults of their spouses in a piece of paper which they were supposed to later exchange with their spouse.

    A woman meticulously listed 41 faults of her husband and was hoping to see a larger number on her husband’s paper. When she exchanged her paper with her husband she was surprised to find that her husband had filled up his paper with the words “I love you.”

    Forgetting for a moment that they were in a seminar hall she threw up every thing and ran into her husband’s arms. In the end as well as in the beginning nothing can beat real love.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2005
  3. roja

    roja Junior IL'ite

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    An awakening to couples...

    Varalotti, that was a good piece of writing. I enjoyed reading it. I think it will be an awakening to the couples to be very conscious about avoiding toxic thoughts, which might probably reduce a couple of rifts!
     
  4. madhu_cute

    madhu_cute Junior IL'ite

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    I liked this article and thought of sharing my comments about it.

    I agree that most of the couples end up having big or small fights in the due course of life - it turns out to be part of living together in a family. But in my experience, I have seen that most of the time conversations turn out to become fights only when people start teasing or commenting about each others relation. Another reason is also when husband compares the wife's behavior or attitude with some other woman and vice versa.

    May be it is good to have arguments (avoid turning them into fights) and agree to disagree when opinions differ. Don't we try and do this at office and elsewhere (outside home) when we argue with others? Why not follow the same among with the spouse in home too? That will make things better.
     
  5. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks a ton, madhu-cute and roja for sharing your views on the subject. Normally we take our spouses and children for granted and do not give them the same respect we give to our office colleagues or even rank outsiders. I realised that I had this defect the other day when I teased my daughter for some minor infraction. She told me almost with tears in her eyes, had your colleague (she named a colleague of mine) done the same thing, will you talk like this? I apologised to her in a hurry. But the fact that we take our near and dear for granted is a classical fatal flaw that many of us commit, mostly unconsciously. Closeness or intimacy should never give us the liberty to be rude or impolite. If this lesson sinks in any relationship will be easy to handle and will be a joy to relish.
    thanks once again,
    varalotti
    sridhar
     
  6. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Let's Start The Discussion Afresh!

    We had a very healthy discussion on 'Teenage Crushes' and 'Love Marriages'. Now this topic is even more dear to our hearts and even more important to our married lives. So let's start discussion on this afresh. I want all types of members, young, middle-aged and seniors (I know there are no 'old' members in IL) to contribute their ideas.
    sridhar
     
  7. Sharada

    Sharada Senior IL'ite

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    Fight fairly

    All fights - whether between two boxers or spouses should be fair. That's what everyone wants. But most hit out at the weakest spot/link. There was a tv serial called Kamzor kadi kaun. Usually the argument may be a small one; but it could be a festering wound which turns septic at the least expected moment. Then the other partner wonders why he/she is over reacting to a minor problem.
    I have observed that those who are blunt and quick-tempered, pride themselves on their frankness and expect others to forget and forgive their outbursts. But if you retaliate with "frankness" it is never taken in the right spirit!
    "Balancing thoughts" is a good habit to develop. Personally I avoid confrontations because it upsets my equilibrium. I usually withdraw and clam up, but my resentment shows in some way or the other. I can argue and hit back, but I think "what's the use of creating unpleasantness". But I keep simmering inside.
    Each day should be like a fresh, clean slate. We should consciously erase all negative thoughts and happenings - so that we don't prejudge or jump to conclusions.
    Sharada
     
  8. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Pertinent, But...

    Your observations are very pertinent. I also had the same policy of avoiding unpleasantness in fights (of course, not with my wife; but elsewhere). But after a while people start exploiting you for this "avoidance of unpleasantness" attitude. Then I started changing my strategy. Where it's necessary I do show my anger and give a piece of my mind. And it works. Though the other person might not be enlightened, you don't have to simmer within.
    Fighting is more like a game of badminton. You cannot play the game without hitting a good shot. You can play a soft game most of the time; but there are times where you have to simply swing your racket and make a direct hit. That way the other side will respect you and you wont feel used up.
    Thank God, I didn't have to use this strategy with my wife. But whenever there's a fight with an outside person I use this strategy once in a while.
    sridhar
     
  9. meenaprakash

    meenaprakash Silver IL'ite

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    nobody wins here.......

    Hello Sridhar,
    <!--[endif]-->
    That was an enlightening article on fights in relationships.

    Small arguments / difference on opinion can really turn into big fights and if unchecked could be disastrous.

    I do explode at times but after my daughter’s birth, I’ve changed a lot. But I can never keep quiet or keep away from my hubby for a long time so its me who compromises most of the time.

    I’ve known of couples who can go on without any kinda interaction for weeks, months together after a fight. I really wonder how could they do that, and know for sure it isn’t healthy. But most of the time it’s the ego of why shld I????? that completely keep them away from compromise.

    I basically feel one shldn’t prolong fights for days. Whatever seems wrong at that point could turn out otherwise maybe later. But I must admit that I feel men are made of stones at times. Most of the time it’s the woman who has to adjust or accept in any argument whether she likes it or not. We have to be diplomatic most of the time.
     
  10. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks Meena!

    Thanks for the nice words you have about my article. Yes it is unhealthy to both the parties to prolong the fight. If the differences are serious one should end the relationship; but if the differences are on the surface, it's advisable to resume the relationship as early as possible. You're right, Meena. Mostly it's the woman who gives up. But I don't buy your argument that men are made of stones. The proportion of "stone" men and "stone" women to the total men and women population will almost be the same. Given the cultural milieu in a country like India, it's mostly the woman who has to apologise first. But that depends on the facts of the case. Suppose the woman is the only daughter of a billionaire. And her husband lives with her in her house. (You know "Veetoda Mapillai"). Here we have a role-reversal. In such cases the man would apologise first.
    It's all due to the inherent cultural differences. Our culture teaches children at a pretty young age that men are slightly superior to women. Given that setting, what you say is true in an overall way. Normally it's the women who give up.
    I know some couples who haven't spoken for years. Maybe it was a bad fight they had, somebody spoke a word too much and they have spoilt their whole lives. We can only pity them.
    sridhar
     

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