Why is the person we love the most often the person we say the worst things to? We want attention, we feel like we aren't being heard or cared for, or we just have a bad day at work, and all of a sudden, like a wrecking ball gone rogue, we look at our mate and say the exact thing that we know will trigger them. And so a fight starts and we co-create a messy situation that could have been avoided if we had just asked for what we needed.
Most of us missed the "How to Fight With Your Mate 101" class that would have taught us how to manage conflict in ways that create more connection instead of destroying it.
I received my training on the job — meaning in the two long-term relationships I've had. The first one in my 20s was like the Wild West when it came to fighting. There were no rules. We both knew what triggered the other, and when we fought, we had no qualms about hitting below the belt. We broke every rule for fighting fair — including the five that I am about to share with you. Thankfully that relationship ended.
For the past 15 years, I've been in a relationship with my soul partner, Noah, which has taught me how to face conflict with what I call "courageous love." Saying my truth, asking for what I need, without needing to blame, prove, protect, or judge. Sometimes it feels like training for the love Olympics because my previous relationship conditioned me to fight or flee, freak out or freeze, or spew my frustration.
I've had to consciously reprogram myself from the inside out by learning to get angry without turning my mate into my enemy. One brilliant move that supported my retraining is what Noah and I call our "love treaty." When we moved in together, we created rules for fighting so that when either of us got triggered or felt like we weren't getting what we needed, we could create a field of connection instead of a battlefield.
In our love treaty we included The Five Love Outlaws. These are the actions and words that, if employed during the heat of the moment, are sure to ignite a fight. Even when you are triggered, and you could hit below the belt, don't say or do these five things:
1. Dig up the past.
"But six months ago you …" It is so tempting to bring up the past because you know this thing is true, and your partner has no defense. But bringing events that happened more than three months ago into a fight as proof or ammunition for your current argument is a trap. It only makes your partner more defensive. As a rule, anything that happened three months or longer ago cannot be brought into a current discussion or conflict.
2. Call names or swear.
"You are such a …" This one should be a no-brainer, but since the F-bomb likes to drop in during fights, make sure you avoid name-calling or using swear words. If you need to swear to release your anger, just don't do it at your partner. And never ever call them names.
3. Mask opinions as feelings.
"I feel like you …" Whenever you add the word "like" after "feel" as in "I feel like you are not listening," you are masking your opinion as an emotion, which sets a trap for your mate, because they cannot say your feeling is wrong. The courageously loving thing to say is, "I am angry because I think you are not listening to me." This way, you own your opinion and your mate can respond without discounting your feeling.
4. Place blame.
"It's all your fault!" It is never black and white or 100 percent the fault of you or your partner, although it is easier to blame than accept responsibility for your part. The truth is you are in the situation together, and the only way out is together. The courageously loving act is to own your part in creating the situation and then invite your mate to come up with a solution together as to what the next step could be.
"So-and-so's partner …" The minute you choose to compare your beloved to someone else's, you lose. Comparison destroys connection. The courageously loving act is to notice what you see in someone else's relationship and instead of throwing it in your mate's face, make an invitation. For example, instead of "Cindy's husband does X, Y, Z," get clear on what you desire and make a request — not a demand — of your partner, which means letting them respond to co-create what works for them and you.
The key to being able to act from courageous love instead of creating chaos and conflict is to slow down when you feel the heat of a fight brewing and check in with yourself before reacting. Instead of inciting a fight with these love outlaws, open your heart and remember you are a team.