How to Defuse a BIG Fight

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You’re in the heat of battle. Your spouse has morphed into a nearly unrecognizable person, and you’re running defense in the worst way possible. What started out as a small disagreement has exploded into a full-scale BIG FIGHT.

How did it get to this point? More importantly, how are you going to get out of it without causing major damage to your relationship?

Hit the brakes.

If your fight is spiraling quickly out of control, it’s time to take a breather. It’s up to you how long you take to cool down, but do whatever it takes to stop the escalation. Don’t allow the destruction of a bad fight to continue unchecked, but don’t drop the issue without revisiting and resolving it, either.

As you step away from the fight to consider what might be done to resolve your problem, focus on the components of a good fight that we like to call the C.O.R.E.

C – Cooperation

A great way to reach a mutually beneficial resolution in a fight is to create a win-win situation. You can consider your options in multiple ways; one effective way to do this is to write down the outcomes both of you want to achieve, then set about looking for ways that you can both benefit.

When you come back together, present your suggestions to your spouse. If your spouse rejects your initial suggestions, work together to create solutions that are agreeable to both of you. This may take a little maneuvering, but it can be done!

O – Ownership

Next, consider which parts of the situation you can take ownership of. You should never own something that isn’t yours (like your spouse’s bad behavior), but you can own your reactions to the situation.

We like to call it the “chaos pie”–so which slices of the pie belong to you? Which portions of your chaos should you claim?

Owning the parts of the conflict that are yours, and taking responsibility for them, is a huge step toward the healthy resolution of the fight you’re in. By claiming what’s yours, you lift those burdens from your spouse’s shoulders, clarify your position, and allow them the chance to identify which parts they should own, as well.

If you’re both acknowledging responsibility toward your parts of the conflict, you can work together more successfully to make things right.

R – Respect (listen & hear)

Respect is a key ingredient in every relationship, and in conflict, it plays a particularly important role.

A critical part of respect is listening to–and truly hearing–your spouse during a conflict. Let them know you’re engaged and paying attention to what they’re telling you. It might even be helpful to repeat back what you hear them saying to you for clarity. And if you’re off the mark, you’re giving them a chance to clarify.

Also, be attentive to your body language and your nonverbal expressions. Don’t sigh loudly or roll your eyes. Show your spouse that what they’re saying is important, and they deserve to be heard.

The absence of respect in a fight will cause your issues to spiral out of control. But if you determine to intentionally show respect to your spouse, even in conflict, you are laying the groundwork for healthy resolution of any issues you may face together.

E – Empathy

If you can develop the ability to walk in your spouse’s shoes, you’ll gain an entirely new perspective on your situation. Endeavor to see the issue the way he or she sees it. This doesn’t mean that empathy will lead you to change your own perspective; it will just help you understand where your spouse is coming from.

Empathy protects your heart from becoming hardened, and when you’re in a big fight, you’ll need that protection.

Now begin again.

If you’d like a more in-depth look at ways to fight a good fight, check out our books The Good Fight and Trading Places. Also download and fill out our free conflict card to rate the depth of your disagreement.

We’ve equipped you with some of the tools you’ll need to finish this fight fairly. Now prepare to approach your spouse again with your C.O.R.E. activated, and you’ll be ready to reach a constructive and peaceful resolution.

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