Dealing with your First Fight
Arguments are going to happen in relationships. Just want to get that out there. Even the most loving and happiest long-term relationships have the occasional fight, it will be over pretty quickly usually, and things go back to their kissing and hand-holding ways. The key for any two people in a relationship is to maintain a sense of perspective and not let emotions drive the dialogue when they are arguing.
When we start new relationships, we make an effort to manage our expectations promising that this time, this relationship will be the one that works and lasts. That is fine in all honesty; we should be positive and be prepared for the relationship to be a good one. If we don't, then you are wasting your time and that of the other person.
Then, a few weeks later or months maybe, you start to see the fuller picture of the other person's personality and the sober reality sets in. Then we notice the inevitable personality flaws in the other person. How we manage our first fights will determine, in part, how the rest of the relationship will develop, so follow the below guiding principles and your shiny new relationship will be in a far better place to handle the first fight. Your relationship will be tooled up to handle future fights also, maybe even stop fights before they even start.
Couples fight and argue – accept it
I work with a lot of men and woman on a 1-2-1 basis, and it is surprising how many I work with believe that happy couples don't fight often. To a certain point, this is true, but let's look at this to clarify. The significant factor here is not the frequency of the fights themselves, but moreover the intensity and duration of the fight. It is possible and probable that happy couples have brief arguments or fights regularly, but these fights are quick and not very intense in the way that we perceive a fierce argument. Either partner may get frustrated, or annoyed but what is very important to remember is that they speak about their feelings, but they are very aware not to let their emotions run overtime. No one achieves anything in a rage.
Be aware of your feelings, but do not in any circumstances, live in them.
The aim is to feel your feelings but not to allow them to be exaggerated. What you will find is that couples who are in long-term relationships know how to express their feelings and move forward from them. Couples who find themselves in unhealthy relationships, where arguments are a significant problem, they treat each fight like it is the make or break one.
Are you the kind of person that has to win arguments? Or do you find yourself in a panic and think every fight will be the end of the relationship? Stop, you are sabotaging your relationship and your overall wellness. That's more of a suggestion for a time after your first fight. It's worth a mention now though.
It's your first fight, don't overreact or panic.
I'll discuss almost every time a client says my relationship is "X" say for example "under strain". It's generally followed by we end up having these big blow out arguments all the time. I bring this back to when they had their first fight and aim to learn the pattern of how fights and arguments are handled.
Over-reacting is the worst mistake that a couple can make in their arguments and more so when it's the first one. Over-reaction can cause the most straightforward disagreement to spiral into a 12-round Vegas verbal fight. When you have the first fight, you should ask yourself the following questions:
Did I get too emotional?
Did my partner get too emotional?
Who got too emotional first?
Knowing and understanding this is crucial. It's not to start another fight about a fight, which wouldn't be as useful and welcomed as much as a meeting about a meeting. Essentially you must establish whether you are both prone to making things far too dramatic, exaggerating or living your emotions or is it just one of you.
I am a big believer of looking inward first, so let's start there. Say it’s you who gets emotional, get yourself to a Life Coach or attend therapy. Take responsibility for yourself and get the help you need. There seems to be a stigma or "social disgrace" that surrounds seeking help from a professional, however, let me put it to you this way. Think of Life Coaches, or Therapists as the human embodiment of your local Screwfix or B&Q; you are going to get materials to make something better or tools to fix something. A Life Coach will help you develop tools so you can fix your own problems.
If it's your partner who over-reacts and lives in their emotions, after the storm ends, you should have a serious conversation and ask if the behaviour is the way they always act during an argument. I know that many people can manage a highly emotional partner, but highly emotional partners are not everyone's cup of tea.
You need to be realistic and fair (to yourself) as to what you can endure and be cautious. Probably best figuring this out before you have the serious conversation about their behaviour during an argument and set yourself limitations so you can, during this conversation (about the behaviour, not the fight) manage expectations.
Tell your partner under the banner of "I want this relationship to work, and therefore X, Y, and Z are unacceptable from either of us if and when we have a fight". This could just be the first open, honest and calm example of communication you will have following your first big fight.
We just touched on it briefly, so after your first fight, take a day or two to bring the tension back down and let it all sink in. Take a few minutes over lunch or a walk somewhere (one of my favourite places to go for a walk with my partner is Linlithgow up in Scotland) and discuss the argument with your new partner. After polishing off the facts of the argument and figuring out who was allowing emotions to drive the fight, tell them you want to take a moment and establish some ground rules for any future fight.
Identify what is acceptable and what is not during an argument. For example, name-calling or bringing family members into the argument. Additionally, it would be sensible to set up a rule to limit the length and intensity of your arguments.
I usually format my sessions on a 1-2-1 basis, however on this on one occasion I worked with a couple who found themselves always having a big-fight night on a regular basis, and it was essentially destroying their relationship. This would not be acceptable for most people, but the couple I worked with are two highly emotional people.
In other words, they were both a bit too familiar and programmed to being highly dramatic during fights, so they feed off each other with this sort of behaviour. They also found that routine like arguments makes their sex lives more exciting, but worked with them to develop new tools allowing them to be content with peace and harmony. It took a long time to work through this as the problem was systematic.
You are just starting out in this relationship, so you can programme and build your own foundations as you want them. You can in confidence say I don't like screaming and shouting. I can only handle a few moments of arguing then I start to shut down, I want us to work together to figure out and solve our problems so arguing while we are emotionally charged will not work.
It's easy for you to read this but I accept that a couple’s first fight can be very stressful and scary to the point where the hair stands on end on the back of your neck. It can be disappointing because you said at the start "This time, this relationship will be the one that works and lasts." You can find yourself feeling crushed or doubting the relationship before it actually gets going. Fights can mean what you want them to mean, don't work to someone else's rules.
Electra and I have been together for 3.5 years, and
we are getting married next spring. We have set up the ground rules that work for us both. We have agreed that there are no winners in fights so don't try and win, just get to the problem and solve it. As best we possibly can, at any given moment, we try to leave all of the emotion out of the argument. One of my previous bosses used to criticise me for not letting the emotions out as this is a sign that I don't care. My boss was then and still is wrong. Electra and I both know that when our emotions are too high, we don't actually communicate. Plus, an emotionally charged Scotsman and an emotionally charged Greek woman is a recipe for disaster.
Ultimately, your first argument is the perfect opportunity for you to set up the ground rules so that you can get along the same way you did when you first started the relationship.
Thanks for taking the time to check out this blog. Next time I’ll be writing a blog completely focusing on those looking to re-enter the dating scene but not sure what to do. Look out for it, it will be entitled “I Haven’t Dated for a Long Time, where do I Start?”
And in case you missed my last one, here is the link to my Distance Relationships and How to Handle Them blog - https://www.intro-nw.com/single-post/2017/10/23/Distance-Relationships-and-How-to-Handle-Them
Cheers, Christopher McPhillips
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Telephone: 07968 996 271
About Christopher: Born in Edinburgh (1984) but was brought up and has lived in Bathgate all his life. Now that he has retired from professional wrestling, yes, that’s right he used to wear spandex pants and do that “fake” wrestling stuff. Christopher recently left his role as Marketing Team Leader at a small a communications and IT provider company in Edinburgh to pursue a self-employment as a Life Coach, Social Media Consultant and Professional Blogger/Writer. He is naturally creative and all round a people person. A very hard worker and will go an extra mile after he has gone the extra mile for a colleague or client. Christopher has blogged and written knowledge articles for large communication companies such as Sky when he was part of their Social Media and Communities team and has written blogs about various topics via LinkedIn, now his writing is hosted on his own site. His interests are broadly people, places and culture. Despite being retired from actively performing on shows he is still a big fan of the wrestlin’ and when he gets the time will spend an evening watching.