I hear it all the time.  “We’re constantly fighting, and we aren’t getting anywhere.  Nothing is actually getting resolved.  The problems are still there.”

There is a common misperception about fighting.  That misperception is that you fight to fix things.  You don’t.  It’s highly unlikely that two people who are facing a challenge or a disagreement are going to find solutions during a fight.  The energy of cooperation and collaboration isn’t flowing in the heat of the moment in anger.  The energy of anger only creates more things to be angry about. You simply aren’t operating at an optimal level.  An angry brain is not a smart brain.  Problem solving is much easier when cooler heads prevail.  Problem solving mode in the middle of a fight doesn’t exist.

I’m not saying not to fight.  What I am saying is to understand what a full on fight is good for.  A fight might be a time to express your feelings, for your sake and your sake only.  Repressing hurt or anger is extremely unhealthy.  If you repress for too long in a relationship, the relationship itself becomes sick and resentment begins to build.  Resentment is a relationship killer.

When you’re angry or hurt and expressing that in the heat of the moment, there is a “therapeutic benefit”.  However, it’s personal.  You do it for your benefit, not to try to change someone else.  You cannot expect to be understood in the heat of a fight.  You can’t expect to get your point across or make any changes or improvements in a relationship during a fight – ever – period.

expressI’m also not saying to ignore trying to solve a problem.  However, the problem needs to be addressed outside of the fight itself.  In fact, a problem is often easier to solve after a fight, because you have experienced that therapeutic self expression.  You can talk about feelings in a fight, but won’t  talk about solutions with a clear calm head.  Without clarity solutions do not arise.

You do not try to find solutions when you are in a state of mind that in and of itself causes problems.

You schedule a date.  You make a space.  You control your temper.  You work together to get through things when you can both be emotionally and mentally present.  Not when you’re in the fight or flight of a blow out.

There really isn’t a rush.  Your problems will wait for you to address them when you’re in the optimal state for problem solving.  It doesn’t matter if it’s an hour, a day, or a week.

Here’s a script.

“I’m very, very angry right now.  I can see you are too.  I feel so frustrated that I know I’m not clear headed.  I don’t think it’s in our best interests, mine or yours, for us to continue down this path.  I think we both need a breather.  I will talk to you about this more so we can figure it all out later.”

You don’t ask for permission to take a break from it.  You just do it.

Making a commitment to manage your problems outside of your fights is a first step to ending the cycle of fighting about the same things over and over again.  When you’re in an optimal state to manage conflict, you’re quite likely to figure out the problems aren’t as big as they seem.