Did you know that when you fight, your fights always follow the same pattern? What you fight about with your mate or your child may change from year to year, but the way the fight unfolds remains the same.
Take for example Marge and Bill. No matter what they fight about, Bill takes the mild-mannered, logical position while Marge becomes furious and raves like a maniac. The more calm Bill becomes, the more hysterical Marge acts. The pattern is always the same.
On Tuesday, this couple fought because Bill didn't get home until 6:40, when he usually arrives by 6:00.
As soon as Bill came in the door, Marge expected an explanation.
Bill explained that his boss had wanted to see him just as he was walking out the door, and he couldn't get away
At this explanation, Marge became angrier and insisted that Bill should have excused himself to call her. After all, most people live on some sort of time schedule, even the boss.
Bill countered by telling Marge in a reasonable tone that she didn't understand the corporate world; and most people in his position don't leave the office until 6:30. To call home hadn't seemed necessary because it wasn't as if he was being delayed until 10 at night.
Angrier still, Marge pointed out that she had taken time out of her life to go to the grocery store and make a nice meal for him, which was now ruined. Why was his time more important than her time? She also recounted all the other times Bill had chosen his work over her - like when he went out of town on business when their first child was due.
At the end of the argument, which lasted most of the evening, Bill felt persecuted and believed Marge was completely unreasonable. Marge felt that she didn't count and once again Bill's work had come first.
If Marge and Bill would take a moment to see that the pattern is always the same - Bill gets logical and Marge gets hysterical, and they rarely resolve their differences - they could change the pattern.
Instead of defending his actions, Bill could focus on Marge's feelings. He could acknowledge that she had to wait and hold dinner and that it would have been more thoughtful for him to call. Bill should give no explanation or rationale for his decision to stay and talk with the boss.
Marge could change the pattern by stating her position and then restating it and not allowing herself to become hysterical.
The problem is, neither Bill nor Marge would get to feel misunderstood and persecuted. And who would express Bill's anger for him if Marge became more controlled? And what about their familiar routine? What would they do if they were not fighting?
That's why it's so hard to give up your fight pattern.
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide,“ and “Thin Becomes You” Doris’ web page: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com.
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