Saturday, December 10, 2016

Save your holidays and happiness

Not all family gatherings are places of welcoming warmth and serenity, and some will never be no matter what you do; but you can improve your chances of happily-ever-after in every relationship by following healthy rules for fighting. Fights, conflict, arguments, and heated debates are a necessary evil. If we fight well, we learn something important and the relationship grows stronger.
There are dozens of lists on-line describing how to fight well in relationships, but the bottom line is that you should make your own list. Pick the rules that matter most to each relationship. Pick the rules you frequently fail to follow.
Memorize your list of rules. Carry them around in your wallet or on your smart-phone. Recite them at the cat each morning. Print them on your mouse-pad at work. Do whatever it takes to ingrain them into muscle memory before you find yourself in the heat of the battle.
And above all, pull them out and look at them before you allow yourself to lose your shit with someone at that Holiday Party or family dinner.
Yes, I know, your opponents probably break every single one of the rules; but their bad behavior does not justify your bad behavior. Rise above. You are in this relationship still because you want to be for some reason, because you somehow value your opponents enough to keep trying.  The good news is that you'll be surprised how vicariously contagious many of the rules are when you apply them consistently over time.
I maintain that is important to do your own research and pick your own rules, preferably in cooperation with your most common opponent (buy them a beverage and invite them to sit down and pick which rules you'll both try to fight by when the time comes). However, I will get you started by sharing the rules my spouse and I  picked. My last word of advice on the matter, pick a dozen or fewer rules and review and adapt them twice a year as you master them (for example, we've mastered the "no violence" and "no sarcasm during a fight" rules so they aren't on the list any more).

 1.    Never fight tired/ hungry/ distracted. STOP and figure out what you are really upset about. Set an appointment to fight.
2.    No degrading language or negative triggers (e.g. ridiculous, stupid, silly, all in your head).
3.    No blaming. State the problem first, then your feelings. Accept apologies at face value.
4.    No yelling. Try to keep calm, sit down, keep an open posture.
5.    No talk of quitting, being done, or leaving the relationship.
6.    Define yourself, not your opponent. No mind reading. Describe how you feel and what you want.
7.    Stay in the present. One issue, one occurrence. No bringing up past times or other grievances.
8.    Take turns. Invite your opponent to give her point of view. Restate what you heard before giving yours.
9.    When necessary, use time-outs. “I’m too wound up/ emotional right now, how about we try again in an hour/ day/ week?”
10.           Propose a specific solution and debate the advantages and disadvantages of each.
11.           Finish with gratitude. “Thank you for talking this out with me.”
When we fight fair, there is less fear and more fun in my family.
Happy Holidays! Please give feedback (like what rules work for you) as it is the gift that shows you really care.

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