Conflict in relationships is always hard to deal with. My first husband who has a personality disorder didn’t fight fair. I know that from all the counseling we attended and the books I read to try and save that marriage.
What is fair fighting? Not arguing in a manner that escalates the conflict and leaves the issue unresolved. It is easy to tell when the fighting has become ‘dirty’ because when it happens your anger levels rise and the argument becomes pointless.
It was to my great dismay that, after months of a conflict free relationship, I found that hubbie #2, who is normally a lovely, gentle, kind man , but has Aspergers, fought in exactly the same destructive way as hubbie #1. Neither people with personality disorders nor Aspies have a great deal of empathy. Maybe that is the reason they fight the same.
Or maybe it is just because they are men? When talking over these ways of fighting with girlfriends, I hear them say over and over again – ‘my husband does that too’. Do all men fight like this?
- Kitchen sinking: bringing up past events and other issues that take the focus off the problem that started the conflict in the first place. For example the fight starts over how the kids don’t clean up their bedrooms but in the middle of that fight hubbie brings up how they don’t unpack the dishwasher, how you don’t clean the kitchen bench and then goes on to say that the kids call you crazy for shouting. The initial issue of the KIDS BEDROOM is lost in the welter of other accusations – see What is kitchen sinking
- Exaggerating: are you told that you ‘always‘ forget to switch on the dishwasher or you ‘never‘ take out the garbage? Doesn’t make your blood boil when you get told that you ‘never’ do something when you know you did. Isn’t the reaction then to say ‘but I switched it on 3 times last week, have you forgotten?’ Then the argument becomes about whether it was 2 or 3 times and goes off on a completely different tangent.
- Interrupting: you are in mid flow explaining something and pause to take a breath – and bam – the other person starts talking over the top of you and you don’t get to finish what you were saying. Then the argument goes off on a tangent about what the other person brought up, or you start arguing about being interrupted and who interrupts the most – and then you can’t remember what you were saying in the first place and never get finish that thought. Sound familiar?
- Mind reading: ‘you think I’m lazy’, ‘you don’t mean that’, ‘you’re saying you’re right and I’m wrong’. When you say back ‘I never said that. Did you hear me call you lazy?’ you know that the other person is trying to read your mind. They are making incorrect assumptions about what you meant or think. When you tell them that isn’t what you what think at all the original subject is once again lost in the discussion about whether you really think that or not.
- Discounting: denying the other person’s reality and experience by mind reading and making assumptions about how the other person feels for example if you say ‘ I feel …..‘ and the other person says ‘no you don’t, you feel …..’
- Diverting: exactly how it sounds, one partner diverts the discussion or argument by changing the subject or throwing in accusations or irrelevant side issues so that the other person can’t remember what the original problem was that started the argument – all of the examples I used above successfully divert an argument.
What is the difference between not fighting fair and being verbally abusive? I believe it is when the abuse happens constantly and not just within the context of an argument. That is what makes all the difference in the world to the quality of the relationship. We can often live not fighting fair as long as you can make up afterwards and then discuss the matter rationally. But none of us should have to live with constant emotional and verbal abuse.
- Do You and Your Partner Fight Fair? (psychologytoday.com)
- Sarcasm & Teasing – Verbal Abuse? (frogstale.wordpress.com)