Whether it's a lover's quarrel, a teenage nightmare or sibling rivalry, we all experience tough battles with people we care about. But battles don't have to turn into all out war. There's a good chance that, if you find yourself warring with someone you love (or even just someone in your line of sight), there has been a lot lost in translation from the first strike to the final blow. Here are five things to ask yourself — and your rival — before fights escalate.
"What are we fighting about?"
It's not uncommon to completely forget what a huge fight with your spouse or teen was about days or weeks later. The anger and frustration were so paramount, they completely masked the entire reason you began fighting in the first place. Pay attention to this, because it means you may not know why you are fighting during the fight as well. Take a breath and ask, "What are we really fighting about?" Chances are, it's not what either of you think. Deep-seated anger and resentment from completely unrelated situations may have seeped into your current fight and caused all kinds of emotional confusion. Bring up what you're really angry about and move forward with only that in mind.
"What are we fighting for?"
Conflict doesn't have to mean a fight. And fights don't have to escalate. If you and your opponent's opinions, values and desires differ, this doesn't mean you need to attack each other over it. You can correct your course and change the goal of the argument, working to resolve the conflict instead of just engaging in it.
"How did this start?"
What triggered the upset this time? And last time? How about the first time? These are important things to note because, again, the triggers often have little to do with the feelings of offense. Fights more likely result from a slow buildup over time that makes you super sensitive to next-to-nothing nudges that wouldn't move most others to bat an eye — let alone start a fight.
"Where is this going?"
If you are in a war, you have likely lost sight of what you are fighting for and what you are fighting about. Now, you're just fighting because that's what the two of you do. You can establish terribly unhealthy patterns with people you love and get into routines that seem almost natural over time. But in the end, where is all of the fighting leading you? If you slow down long enough to cease fire and ask yourself what outcome you hope to gain from all of this warfare, you'll probably realize that what you really want won't be accomplished this way. You can't emotionally or verbally batter someone into love, respect, health or compassion.
When you make the goal of any conflict to "make things better," you essentially snuff the fire instead of fanning the flames. Working toward a solution will help quell attacks and insults, redirecting the aim of your emotional missiles toward the real problems themselves: not feeling understood, respected, honored or loved.
Keeping your aim off the other person and putting it toward the problems can feel impossible when you believe the other person is the problem. But remember, you love this person. He is a treasured part of your life, in some capacity, and it is his behavior and thought patterns you dislike. So continue to love him for the person he is, and work toward building or rebuilding the strong bonds that made him so valuable to you. You can't change anyone, but you can change your relationship together.