Have you ever been drawn into a fight with a loved one where by the time you got knee-deep into who’s “right” and who’s “wrong” over the most trivial thing it felt as if, somehow, your very life depended on the outcome of that fight?
We’ve all had moments like this, perhaps too many times; which is why it seems strange that we’ve yet to see the following: there’s no such thing as a “winning” side in any fight between two people who love one another, anymore than one seat proved itself better than another on the deck of the Titanic.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t, and won’t always be differences in opinion between our partner and us; this is natural; needed, actually. There will always be some differences between us that aren’t a question of which of us is right – or wrong – as the case may be; rather there may come times when a disagreement might be over the best course to take for the well-being of a child, or over some other shared concern…where we see a different path than does our partner in order to reach an outcome that both of us agree is for the good of all.
So, to that end, let us agree that there’s a big distinction between working through our differences – creating together a choice that’s palatable to both of us – versus trying to shove what we believe is right down the throat of our partner.
Our demands never prove we’re right, anymore than our negativity proves our partner is wrong. The only thing this kind of stress and strain between us proves is that we’re missing at least one piece of the puzzle in that struggle with our partner.
Again, what’s the missing piece? We can call it “love.” But if the word – or even the ideal – had the power to hold us together when everything feels like it’s trying to pull us apart – especially in the throes of a fight – then all we would have to do is call up that word, and our world would suddenly be right.
To be clear: love is not just a word; it’s an action. It’s a choice we agree to make when we see – by the light of a higher order of understanding – that there’s something more important at stake in that moment than struggling to satisfy our own self-centered interests.
In this instance, one such new action would be to use the onset of any conflict, regardless of who initiates it…to fight for something higher than who will be the next “king of the hill.” In other words, rather than fighting with your partner, fight instead to remember how destructive it is to your love to tear into one another…over anything.
Let me anticipate what you may be feeling at this point, and answer that fear: Don’t fight to “get on top” of any thought that tries to tell you, warn you, “But, if I don’t fight back, my partner will walk all over me.” Instead fight to see how much pain there is in any compulsion – whether your partner’s, or your own – to have the last word. Then you won’t want to win that kind of power for yourself, and neither will you want to punish your partner for the same.
If we will dare to interrupt the usual pattern of fighting with our partner – pause just long enough to even consider this new action – we will see in that same moment what love has been wanting to show us all along: any argument with our partner – where one of us is trying to prove we’re right, and the other wrong – is not because we know “better,” and it’s certainly not born of love. In these moments, we fight for one reason, and for one reason only, no matter how you want to call it: love is absent.
In a way, this is all we need to know, all we need to see, because when that telling moment comes we won’t be tempted to start looking for yet another false solution. If we see, no matter how dimly, that love is the only answer, then we know our new response must be to refuse to fight.
On another note: yes, it’s likely that your partner won’t understand what you’re trying to do, and may still want to fight. But, eventually, they’ll see how useless it is to pick a fight when they can’t find the “old you” to fight with. Each time you choose to leave them there with their enmity, but with no “enemy” to legitimize it, they’ll have little choice but to let it go, whatever “it” is in that moment. This may take a while, but you’ll soon see the birth of an altogether new relationship between the two of you.
Excerpted from Relationship Magic: Waking Up Together.
About the Author: Guy Finley, Bi-Weekly Mentor, is the best-selling author of more than 40 books and audio albums on self-realization. He is the founder and director of Life of Learning Foundation, a nonprofit center for spiritual discovery located in southern Oregon where he gives talks four times each week. For more information visit www.guyfinley.org, and sign up to receive a free helpful weekly newsletter and other gifts.
Click here to read Guy’s autobiography and find more of his articles posted on The Teen Mentor.