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Avoiding Fights 
And Improving Understanding

Communication problems happen in all relationships, good relationships and bad ones!You can learn how to become a better communicator, avoiding fights that lead nowhere.

One way to shift those chronic arguments is to understand what the true underlying needs and issues are, because they may not have anything to do with the apparent subject being discussed. This is why those endless arguments about the same subject just feel so frustrating for both of you. The first step to avoiding fights is to resolve communication problems in a relationship by really understanding what it is that you are arguing about.

Understand that communication problems are normal. If love was easy, everyone would do it! It's the one thing we all say we want in our lives, but it is easier said than done! In the honeymoon phase of new romance, most of us don't need to consult the instruction manual.

But when it comes to long-term relationships, most of us get stuck at some point, like old VCR's endlessly flashing 12:00. Problems in relationships are normal, but the trick is to learn how to handle them by not turning them into unsolvable communication problems. Avoiding fights by improving the way we listen will help us understand what we each really need.

Ask any couple that has been together for more than a year and, if they are honest, they will admit that there are some potholes in the road of love. We know where these familiar rough spots are and yet we hit them every time.

In relationship terms, they are the chronic arguments that just don't seem to go away. If you have ever found yourself in one of these stalemate situations, there are a couple of tips that can lead you back to smooth, paved roads. Avoiding fights that don't really get to the issue will help your relationship tremendously.

The first tip is to ask yourself:

"Is the thing that we are arguing about really the issue at all?"

This simple question can save you years of aggravation from going down the same old, same old, bumpy roads. It can really help you avoid fights you don’t need to have.

Let's peek in as Ricky and Tina think they are talking to each other, but are really talking at each other.

TINA: My sister's husband is taking her to Las Vegas.

RICKY: He loves to throw away money. That's why your sister is always mooching off you.

TINA: But at least he takes special time to be with her. He takes her on nice vacations, they see shows...

RICKY: The guy is a real deadbeat! Every time he scores one real estate deal, he blows it all, to compensate for all the times he hasn't had two cents to rub together.

TINA: At least he wants to rub something together.

RICKY: Oh! And what's that supposed to mean?

TINA: You're about as romantic as a wet rug!

This scene would be humorous if it wasn't so painful to the people in it. It's like one of those games: "Find out how many issues are hidden (and not so hidden) in Ricky and Tina's argument." There are at least seven different issues bothering them, hidden in their comments.

Let’s look at their words again, this time with the translation bubble, as in a cartoon saying what they really mean:

TINA: My sister's husband is taking her to Las Vegas. TRANSLATION: I would like you to take me on a vacation, but I don’t want to ask, because I am afraid you will say no.

RICKY: He loves to throw away money. That's why your sister is always mooching off you.TRANSLATION: I resent that your sister borrows money from us, but I’m too guilty to put my foot down.

TINA: But at least he takes special time to be with her. He takes her on nice vacations, they see shows... TRANSLATION: I’m not feeling loved and appreciated. I would like to be taken on a vacation, but I don’t know how to ask for what I need.

RICKY: The guy is a real deadbeat! Every time he scores one real estate deal, he blows it all. to compensate for all the times he hasn't had two cents to rub together. TRANSLATION: I don’t like being compared to someone I don’t respect. Why don’t you value me, and what I do for you?

TINA: At least he wants to rub something together. TRANSLATION: We have lost our passion and I don’t know how to get it back.

RICKY: Oh! And what's that supposed to mean? TRANSLATION: Yeah, right, like this is my fault!

TINA: You're about as romantic as a wet rug! TRANSLATION: I just don’t want sex if I can’t have the romance.

There are so many old resentments and hidden daggers in this conversation that it would require a communication expert to straighten it out. Some of the daggers are said outright, some are implied, but you can imagine how difficult it is to get to the bottom of any one of them when they are all lumped together, and hurled at the high speed of a typical argument.

There are a lot of myths about arguing, like the one about "Nice girls don't get angry" or "Real men don't give in." Or that anger ignored will simply go away. Or that happy couples don't argue. It is valuable to understand your own values and beliefs about arguing.

Ask yourself "What are my attitudes about arguing?"

Do these beliefs help you, or do they get in the way when it comes to avoiding fights in the relationship?

Avoiding fights that may be trivial, or even very painful can be done by remembering that the issue that you think you're upset about may not be the issue at all. For instance, here are some common arguments that appear to be about one issue, but may truly be about another issue entirely. You can read more about them in Greg Godek’s book Romance 101 -- The Lessons of Love.

Your list may be different, but the idea is to help you get out of the rut of unproductive arguments.

* Arguing about MONEY is rarely about money. It's about POWER issues. 

* Arguing about SEX is rarely about sexuality. It's about INTIMACY. 

* Arguing about household CHORES is rarely about chores. It’s about FAIRNESS.

* Arguing about the KIDS is rarely about the kids. It's about CONTROL.

* Arguing about JEALOUSY is rarely about fidelity. It’s about trust, communication and owning your own desires. It’s about feeling excluded or abandoned. 

* Arguing about WORK is rarely about work. It's about time, and the perception of loss. 

* Arguing about RELATIVES is rarely about them. It's about expectations. 

Explore your own chronic arguments and find out what's really underlying the issues for yourself and your partner. This can really help in avoiding fights. One major clue to what the real issue is can be found by asking yourself this question: “Is there some unmet need I have that is causing me to feel this way?"

Bad or uncomfortable feelings are almost always the result of unmet needs. The trick is to identify the need and then make a simple request for behavior that would satisfy this need.

If we're ever going to learn how to fight fair, we have to start talking about the real issues, that is the real unmet needs, that are bothering us. Avoiding fights that go nowhere will help you to begin to solve many of your problems in relationships.

Communication problems can be handled once we commit to understanding each other's true underlying needs.

Go from Avoiding Fights to Healthy Relationships

Go to Problems In Relationships

Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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