wrong or right way to fight with partner

“Where should we begin?”

That is a question I often hear when I meet with a new couple. It is indeed a good question. Should they begin telling me about the “good ol’ days” when they were in love and absolutely sure that nothing would ever set them apart? Or, should they begin telling me the mess they are in now? How did it happen? How did they go from dreams and hopes to shouts and accusation? Of course, every story is different and each relationship has its own dance, and that is precisely where I usually like to start.

Tell me how you fight” is a question I ask pretty soon in treatment. “Uh?” is the usual response. This makes sense since most couples don’t think about how they fight, but more about what they fight about. When things are going well, fights are few and they don’t want to think/talk about them. When things get ugly, both partners are too angry to really think about the how they got there. They are too busy trying to win the argument, defending from each other; things usually only go downhill from there. They aren’t every thinking about the right way to fight either!

Learning how the couple fights gives me (and the couple, if they are willing and able to pay attention) a lot of information about how they got into the predicament they are in, and how to, if they can, get out of it.