Deanna Ogle examines the man-to-man advice from Dr. Bill Cloke onhow to fight fair.
My fiancée and I were sitting around a table at our engagement party listening to each of our closest friends offering wisdom or advice that they wish they had known before they got married. Two of my fiancée’s friends gave two very different pieces of advice for when talking with your wife: the first friend said to “shake the beehive once and a while” and the other said “don’t poke the bear”.
Tom Matlack recently wrote about two of his friends who take the route of the second friend. They have learned that the way to talk to their wives is to look down and take a physically submissive stance and prepared to be verbally trampled.
Is this the right way to go about talking to your wife/girlfriend/partner? Should you simply use a quiet tone and avoid eye contact during conversations? How can we learn to talk to each other so that we can clearly communicate how we are feeling without clobbering one another? Would it actually be worthwhile to “shake the beehive once and a while”?
Dr. Bill Cloke thinks so. In his article “Can a Good Fight Save Your Relationship” he doesn’t say to stop fighting, but instead, learn how to fight fair.
Most of the advice littering the magazines in the grocery store is written for women, by women, but Dr. Cloke offers some ways for women and men to navigate heated conversations before your rising blood pressure makes it biologically impossible to be rational.
The first thing Dr. Clocke mentions is take steps to avoid making your argument nuclear. Some couples fight they scream at each other and call each other awful things. Not only does this complicate the conversation by adding extra layers of anger and defensiveness, but in the heat of the moment you can say things that you can’t take back and your significant other will remember for a long time. Dr. Cloke suggests agreeing long before you get into an argument to keep your voice at a normal level and leave verbal bombs like “I knew I shouldn’t have married you,” out of the conversation.
Next, he says that “constructive criticism” often doesn’t work because we are almost always too blinded by our own anger or sadness to be objectively constructive. The best thing I’ve found in my marriage is to use the future tense when trying to communicate relationship improvements. For example: “Last night was awesome. I love what you did with your hands, it was so hot. Next time, maybe try a little less teeth and using more of your tongue.”
Using a future tense in this conversation about sex, a subject that can make anyone feel instantly insecure, allows you to validate the effort that your partner is putting in, avoids making them feel guilty for what already happened, and yet gives them useful feedback.
This is where “shaking the beehive” becomes crucial. If you never say anything to simple avoid pissing off your partner, you run the risk of letting things fester that can come back to create a volcano later. If you tip-toe around your significant other you are the one creating imbalance in your relationship.
One of the most important things I learned in therapy was one of Dr. Cloke’s additional points: anger, like other emotions, is a tool. Emotions are clues and signals to something going on inside you. When you feel your heart racing and your face getting warm, what is triggering that? Is the other person jumping to conclusions? Is there an underlying principle you feel is being violated? Instead of blindly rushing into an argument, Dr. Cloke suggests taking a breather to clear your head, and then coming back to the conversation.
Learning to fight fair depends greatly on the personality types. Despite what I wish sometimes, there is no handbook, so only you can find out what will help you establish the most balance in your relationship.
Do any of Dr. Cloke’s point resonant with you? Are these tips unrealistic for men? What has worked for you when talking to your partner?