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Family Holidays and Dirty Fighting

by Jenny Hansen

Family Holidays and Dirty Fighting

Last weekend when my honey was cleaning the office, he came across a piece of paper that cracked us up. Eight years ago, this four page document – called, “Dirty Fighting Techniques” – helped save our relationship. In the interest of peaceful holidays for those who are…dysfunctional, I thought I’d share these techniques. Consider it my gift for the holidays.

Dirty Fighting isn’t some Kung Fu or Kickboxing how-to guide. Nope, this is a list of twenty-three items that we were given by our counselor when we went to him to make us or break us as a couple back at the end of 2006. I’m one of those people who thinks the shortest distance through a fight is straight up the middle. My husband (then boyfriend) is exactly the opposite, at least he was then. His M.O is passive aggressive and that straight up the middle technique used to make him want to hyperventilate.

For anyone who doesn’t get the passive aggressive thing, here’s what it really means:

  • Passive aggressive people avoid conflicts at all costs. They hate it, usually due to the irrational fear that if they engage in conflict with someone, that person will leave them.
  • Yes, their anger (which has not been expressed) might come out in other ways, at other times. It will often seem to come out of the blue when it finally hits.
  • Passive aggressive individuals are often able to have conflict with others they don’t care deeply about because the fear of abandonment isn’t there.
  • Passive aggressive people internalize all the conflict in the room. Seriously. It doesn’t matter who is fighting, they take it personally. Most of the time this is because it scares the pants off them. Taking on all the conflict lets them smooth it over and control it, rather than having it go flying around in big uncontrollable waves.
  • Conflict can make a passive aggressive person feel physically ill.
  • Passive aggressive children are usually created by controlling mothers, many of whom are passive aggressive themselves.
  • Most passive aggressive people will leave the room, car, house, vicinity when the fighting breaks out because they are avoiding the conflict. This leaving is the equivalent to a fight-or-flight response. (Plus, it is seriously dirty fighting!)

So, why did we go to counseling? Well…I’d broken up with him. You don’t need all the back story, just know the breakup was a HUGE surprise to my honey and we decided to go to counseling before we went our separate ways. We picked a rockstar psychologist, herein known as Counselor Guy (CG). He got us back on the You-Are-It-Forever track where we belonged, only with much better skills to make sure we could stay there.

By the second visit, counseling went something like this:

CG asked if WE felt like we fought. We looked at each other and agreed that we had the occasional discussion. “Oh, you fight plenty,” he corrected us. “You just don’t do it out loud.” Ouch. He wanted to know if we were aware that we were fighting. (That would be no.)

He gave us a list of Dirty Fighting Techniques and asked us to put a  check mark next to those that we engaged in. At one point, I was spying on glanced at my honey’s list and freaked that he’d checked almost nothing. I had been checking them as I went along and was shocked at the end to see that I engaged in like FIFTEEN of the twenty-three techniques. Apparently, I was a dirty fighting hot mess. To look over and see my honey’s document with almost NO checks was horrifying. I was kind enough to point out a few that I thought he engaged in. CG immediately barked at me to “Stay in your own document!” (Yeah, that was embarrassing.) Within six visits, CG had slapped us around a bit and taught us how to fight clean.

Definition of Clean Fighting:

  • Take responsibility for your own stuff. Also known as “cleaning up your own side of the street.” I know it sucks when you’re mad and you clean up your side while the other person leaves their big cow patties steaming, but lead by example on this one.
  • Leave the other person an “out with dignity.” This is achieved by understanding there might be facts you don’t know.
  • “I” statements are always going to work better when you’re pissed off than “you” statements. (Don’t try to cheat with stuff like, “I understand that you’re a selfish bastard.”)
  • Talk about the behavior in those “I” statements, not any personality disorders you think they should address.
  • Stick to the point. Don’t go throw in the kitchen sink of laments spanning back over months.
  • Deliberately pushing buttons is REALLY dirty. The weak underbelly is to be avoided, even if you’re thinking your partner is lower than a yellow-bellied toad for siding with your mother-in-law over you.

Here is a clean fight summed up in 4 easy steps:

  1. How you feel (use an “I” statement for this)
  2. The behavior that prompted that feeling
  3. Why it’s important/the background (i.e. what button did they push)
  4. What would you want them to do differently next time

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Go try it. It’s really hard to do when you’re mad.

Now, why would I be throwing myself under the bus like this and talking to you about Dirty Fighting Techniques? It’s the holidays, the champion season of stress and dirty fighting. It’s also the perfect time to change your ways.

Do you fight dirty or clean? Is fighting something you’ve learned to do well, or is it on the list of things that makes you hyperventilate? Continue the discussion at the #SocialIn hashtag on Twitter or SocialInDC on Facebook!

~ Jenny
@JennyHansenCA

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About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works. When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.

© 2014 Jenny Hansen. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact me


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