Conflict and disagreements are unavoidable in relationships, but they don't have to cause pain, negativity, or destruction. In this episode we cover a collection of tools to use before, after, and during fights you have with your partner in order to find constructive resolution and reconection.
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Jase: On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we're talking about handling conflicts in your relationships constructively rather than destructively. We'll be talking about specific steps and tools that you can use before, during, and after a fight or disagreement with your partner to keep it productive and positive.
Dedeker: How a man fights.
Jase: How a man fights.
Dedeker: Love him, hate him, honestly, I don't think there's anybody who loves conflict. I think everybody identifies as conflict avoidance to a certain extent.
Emily: I think that is essential sometimes to the growth of the relationship. That's something we'll be talking about in a bit here.
Jase: I'd say maybe I would put it not that fights are essential, but that they're most likely inevitable. Understanding how they happen and how you can be more constructive with them, and also hopefully avoid having more of them, find more constructive ways than actually like fighting to resolve things. Maybe there are people out there, I'm sure there are people out there who are like, "No, I've never had a fight in my relationship ever." That's cool and hopefully that's because you found other ways to deal with your conflicts and not because both of you just bottle everything up and never--
Emily: Don't talk about anything.
Dedeker: Then in 50 years it's going to explode.
Jase: Right, or you just through miserable forever. Hopefully that's not the case. I found in my life that some conflict, which some people would call a fight and some don't, is inevitable, right? Would you say?
Dedeker: It's just the nature of being human, right? Until we are able to hive minds together-
Jase: Like the borg.
Dedeker: -like the borg. Until we're able to borg together in our relationships, you're never going to have a human relationship that doesn't have some form of disagreement. I think that's pretty easy to accept.
Jase: Yes, I've also found that I've had many relationships where the two of us will have different definitions of what counts as a fight. There will be some conflict or disagreement and to one person it's like, "Oh, we just had a fight." To the other person it's like, "Oh, what? I thought we just like talked through a disagreement like that." I think the word fight is interesting because it carries with it different connotations. Disagreement, I think it's a lot more clear. It's just like well, there were things only we had a different idea on something. I think both conflict and fight, they're like a little bit -- can be a little bit loaded like they have a little bit extra.
Emily: Tone of voice or something.
Dedeker: For, if I'm going to describe something as a fight, it's like we've switched into going after each other mode. We've switched into like not unnecessary communication and maybe just-- I guess, switching into the destructive mode; versus an argument in my head is like-- For me, an argument in my head is like there's been some emotional intensity there because it's a disagreement that wasn't just resolved within five minutes essentially. It was an argument where there needs to be a lot of back and forth or an extended period of back and forth; not like talking about any of this matters anyway because everyone's going to define it differently.
Jase: Yes, I feel like I tend to have a more liberal definition of what counts as a fight. I might call something a fight even if it wasn't really destructive and it wasn't like personally attacking each other or anything like that; if it was what other people might just think of as an argument or even just a heated discussion or something. I'll tend to use, fight more casually. I've found that quite a number of partners who are bothered by that or upset by that.
Dedeker: Yes, I do get bothered by that sometimes.
Jase: I was trying not to call you out.
Dedeker: Are we in a fight right now.
That was me being you.
Jase: I wouldn't call that a fight, maybe not quite that liberal definition. That's the other thing that brings us to our next point here is that if there is conflict in your relationship, it doesn't necessarily mean that your relationships are unhealthy. As Dedeker was saying, it's not like we actually become one flesh and one mind where we no longer have to discuss things or will ever disagree about things. So just because there is conflict, doesn't mean that the relationship is necessarily unhealthy.
Emily: Yes, and it's what I was saying at the beginning is that it can be this opportunity for personal growth or the growth of the relationship. I was watching the show, Ozark, and the two main characters, Laura Linney and Jason Bateman, get in a really big fight. The guy who lives in their basement hears it and he says, "Hey, if I had a fight like that my ex-wife and I might still be together." That was interesting to me. It just struck me because I think often, yes, it can be this way to air one's grievances about the relationship. That's not necessarily a bad thing because you can at least say, "Hey, these are the things we need to work on." Maybe it can be like a next step moment for what do we actually need to talk about here? What do we actually need to think about to move the relationship forward?
Dedeker: I guess, to argue for the sake of arguments like that, sometimes, for some people, it takes some emotional investment in order to be better able to speak their truth as it were of what's actually going on and to actually share their feelings about what's going on. I know there's a number of people who have a hard time verbalizing their feelings if they're not feeling them in the moment. Some people it's the opposite of when they're feeling something in the moment, that part of their brain is not able to really verbalize it. I know for some people it's not until I'm actually feeling where this is hurting that I can actually pinpoint what's really going on and be able to express that to my partner.
Jase: There's so much to talk about just within all of this. We do want to actually get to some tools and techniques and things that you can do. I think all that's really interesting. I was just the other day -- I don't remember where this was. I'm sorry that I don't remember. Someone was talking about -- They were using a more binary way of defining being in a relationship which means it's romantic and sexual and not being in a relationship and saying that, "You don't have fights with anyone like the fights you have with people you're in relationships with."
They were drawing this parallel between like loving someone and fighting with them, which I guess they were trying to make this correlation between why we fight in a rougher way, maybe with our family, than we do with acquaintances or random people, and that we also do that with our loved ones in a romantic sense. Anyway, it really got me thinking about that though and obviously that's not the topic of this episode. I think that's something interesting to look at as well. How do we treat co-workers versus friends versus romantic partners versus people that we're having sex with but that are not romantic or people that are romantic but not sexual? Looking at all of that and being like, "Huh, do I have different rules about how I argue or fight with this person or when I choose to do that?
I think that's something worth calling attention to because as we talked about way back on our Fromanceships episode that we bring a lot of weird baggage and attachments about things. I think fights are a big part of that when we define our relationship as being in a certain category. It gives us permission or not to treat them a certain way. I think that's worth questioning.
Emily: Definitely, sounds weird.
Dedeker: Definitely, I thought it's interesting to think about.
Emily: Yes, and since we tend to give our friends maybe the benefit of the doubt a little bit more than we do our partners at times, or if our friends piss us off in the same way that our partners might, we may be like, "Ah, that's just so-and-so." And may not take it as personally as we would if it were a lover doing the same thing.
Jase : I think there could be people out there who would say, "For me it's the opposite." But either way, still take a look at it and feel like, okay, what's going on there that's making you treat those people differently just because they're in a different category in your life.
Emily: Oh yes.
Dedeker: I wanted us to first focus on what are the things that we can do? What's the work that we can do beforehand, before we're in a moment of conflict? What's the work that we can be doing in our relationships to set a good foundation as it were for when conflict arises?
Emily: A couple of episodes ago, we brought you the new and improved scrum which we now have coined the term radar. Not really truly--
Dedeker: I don't know if we really coined that one but--
Emily: We know not the term but we said-
Dedeker: We refurbished?
Emily: We refurbished it, sure. Yes, we came up with a new acronym for the already acronym. [laughs]
Jase: Or a better acronym.
Emily: Exactly. So radaring which you can go back to that episode and read all about it. It's also established like some regular check in monthly or even bi-monthly or weekly just to prevent problem solving from happening only when there's a crisis or when emotions are super, super high in your relationship. Again, it's taking those crazy times when something does happen and having this safe compartmentalized space to speak about them and to have tools and build actionable goals for the future.
Jase: Yes, I think it's a space like Dedeker and I have found in our radars that often will go into one, and we do ours monthly. We'll go into one thinking, "Everything is good right now, it's going to be easy breezy." But at some point during it, something heavy or serious will come up that maybe if that had been left alone for months, could have ended up as a fight or at least more serious disagreement or something. Instead, it's not pleasant necessarily but it constructive and it's in space where you can actually talk about it and get through it before it becomes something where you're actually raising your voices at each other or-- As Dedeker was saying, becoming destructive instead of constructive.
Dedeker: We're going to beat you guys over the head with radar -
Jase: Yes, it's the best.
Dedeker: - and as many episodes as we possibly can.
Emily: Already been doing that so far.
Dedeker: Having something in place where you're already established, you have a good channel of communication with your partner ahead of time is good obviously though I won't-- a gimmie, I suppose. Even more ideal if it is a regular established space like the radar thing.
Another thing that you can do is something that I like to call checking your arsenal or I think that when I was writing my book, I called it checking your inner weapons rack which sounds really dramatic. [laughs]
Jase: Tell us about that.
Dedeker: I will. This is a personal growth exercise. It requires some reflection and some introspection. It's best to not do it when you're in the midst of a conflict. Right in the moment. This is good to do when you have time to dedicate to personal growth and to some self-awareness and some self-exploration. It's also good to write this one down as a journaling exercise as well. Something that you can come back to and revisit.
Basically, it's sitting down and reflecting on when you're in an argument or in a fight, what are tools or the behaviors that you whip out when you feel like you're losing? We all do this. We all have tactics that we go to when we feel we really want to be right and we really want the other person to be wrong and so we whip our some tool or some weapon that's in our arsenal.
If you think that you don't do this, if you think that for some reason this doesn't apply to you, I really recommend that you go and have a chat with somebody that you have gotten into an argument with in the past. Ideally multiple times. Parents are good for this, siblings are good for this, ex-partners if that relationship is healthy and not going to mess up your day to talk to this person or a person that you've been friends with for a very long time. You can have a very uncomfortable but illuminating chat with them about, "What are the things that I do when I fight or what are the things when I argue? What are the things that I do when I'm trying to make the other person wrong?"
The reason why this is so important to do is that when you can put a label on your own crappy behavior [chuckles] and take ownership of your own crappy behavior, it can help you have just that extra little bit of awareness when you're heading into that mode to be able to stop yourself before you do something that is destructive.
As I said, we all do this and we do have a list of some examples of some silly games that we tend to play in these situations.
Jase: Sometimes less silly than others.
Dedeker: Well, yes. [laughs]
Emily: Some of them are rough but yes. The first one is going to be using emotional volume to drown out the other side which basically means the angriest, the loudest or the saddest person is going to win.
Jase: That's like metaphorical volume.
Emily: Yes, just like using your emotions to beat the other person down in some way.
Dedeker: This can be a tricky one on the outside it can just look like, "Well, I just have a lot of feelings right now." But it's quite possible at some point in the past, being the angriest one in the argument, the one who acts out the most in anger; maybe that is raising your voice, maybe that is throwing something or stomping around. At some point, probably in your early childhood, that worked.
Or being the saddest person like breaking down in tears and becoming hysterical and not able to listen, not able to have a conversation. At some point that worked and this is so nefarious because it doesn't mean that you're faking it; that you're just using it manipulatively. It's like this is a narrow pathway that's within you that at some point in your history probably worked for winning an argument or making the other person lose the argument.
Jase: Yes, that's now becomes a habit. A little bit of a psycho. Again, what's important about this exercise is that you're checking your own arsenal. So really try to be honest with yourself about figuring out, "Is it possible that I'm using these things to avoid having real conversations or to avoid losing?" This isn't something that you should use to define it for somebody else because you don't know what their feelings are. This is more a self-introspection tool. Another one?
Dedeker: Another tool that often comes to play is isolation or avoidance of things you don't like. Either emotionally or something that is physical like pushing your partner away. Doing the, "Don't touch me. Don't talk to me. I don't want anything to do with you. I'm going to freeze you out." Essentially, that's also a tactic that's very common for human beings to use.
Jase: This is one tool that on both sides of it can be a really difficult thing for people because that-- In childhood psychology terms, it's often referred to as withholding love. A way that parents will often punish a child, if they're not going to spank them or sit them in the corner or something is to do the same thing, it's to shut them out, to ignore them or to punish them by putting them in isolation somewhere. This one can definitely be a very deeply engrained way of being like, "If you do something bad, the way you get punished is by not getting love." That's a real deeply rooted one for a lot of people, I think.
Dedeker: Yes. Definitely.
Jase: Another one that can come up is looking down on the other person and this one is the opposite of the emotional volume one. It's saying, "Hey, I'm the one keeping my cool here while you're being emotional about this. Why don't you get your shit together because clearly, I'm the only one being rational here because you're expressing your emotions."
It's using the other side of it especially if you're someone who has an easier time compartmentalizing or detaching. That doesn't mean that you're not legitimately frustrated that this is happening and you wish you could have a different conversation. But maybe examine, are you using this as a way to not really need to listen to what they're saying or to not need to actually look at what you're doing?
Dedeker: It's related to tone policing as well.
Jase: It's more at a personal level.
Dedeker: Yes, more on a personal level of toning the other person.
Emily: Tone policing?
Dedeker: Yes, which is telling the other person, "What you're saying is not valid because I don't like your tone essentially." Usually, the term tone policing is used in context of historic form. These days usually in online arguments. [laughs]
Emily: How can you tell the tone?
Dedeker: Well, historically, it's been aimed at women and people who are minorities and people of color. Essentially saying, "Well, you're too angry about this so we can't have a rational discussion about this right now." When sometimes part of the discussion is the emotions that are part of it. It's another tactic to silence people or invalidate people's arguments and emotions. Things like that.
Jase: I think both on the public level and on a personal level, there is something to be said in this situation for-- "You're being so emotional right now it's hard for me to understand what it is you're saying. I do want to know though." As opposed to, "You're being so emotional. That means you're irrational and so I'm not going to listen to you." That's a subtle -
Dedeker: Right. There's a subtle difference there.
Jase: - difference there or maybe not so subtle of a difference actually.
Dedeker: Ian, that's just a couple examples. There is an infinite number of bullshit games that we play as human beings. I know in my book I talk about my "Concede Your Way to Victory" tactic that I got engrained very early on which is the whole thing of like, "Okay, fine, fine, you win. Do whatever you want." Or, "Fine, if you want to do it, do it that way. Okay. Fine," which is a mix of a little bit of isolation and I don't know. Whatever else.
Jase: I can testify it's very effective.
Dedeker: Jeez. Well, don't encourage me.
Dedeker: I really encourage you when you're ready to do this exploratory work to sit down, do some free writing, do some thinking. If you need to go talk to people, probably not best to go talk to your partner about this because it may be a little bit of a sore subject.
Jase: Unless you're at that point where you--
Dedeker: Unless you feel that's going to be comfortable for you or useful for you. Think about what are the things that you fall back on when you feel like you're about to lose an argument and whether that is an argument with your partner or with a family member or a stranger online. What about you two? I got to share my "Concede Your Way to Victory" tactic.
Emily: Oh god. I think I'm probably the first one crying or just being really upset. I definitely had moments where I've gotten really upset and I feel like it stops the issue and then I win and that's not good. That's probably my big bad one.
Jase: I feel like of the ones we've listed so far, I've definitely used all of them except maybe the isolation one. That one is more one that is very upsetting if someone does that to me like withdrawing and it's less like to be something that I would do. But yes. I've had arguments where I've been the one who's the cold, calculating, emotionless one and using that to say, "I must be right because I'm being more rational than you." Or, being the one who is more emotional because I'm more hurt, I'm more angry or just being louder. That can happen. I think I've done the "Concede Your Way to Victory". Maybe I learned it from you. I don't know.
Jase: Just kidding. Sorry.
Dedeker: Another really common one-
Emily: I have done that too, yes.
Dedeker: -that people use is-- Gosh, it's technically a logical fallacy. I think on John Oliver they started calling it whataboutism which is--
Emily: Trump does this.
Dedeker: Yes, but this good guy shows up all the time in politics these days which is like, "You're calling out my bad behavior but what about this time two years ago when you did the same thins?" Or, "What about when your other partner did this and it was okay there?" That's definitely a tactic that's really common and is a good one for if we're panicking and feeling like we're about to be wrong and we don't want to be.
Jase: Deflecting. Putting the blame on somebody else.
Emily: Well, you just said about bringing up shit that happened six months ago or years ago or anything like that and being like, "But that time that you did X, Y, and Z was really fucked up.
Jase: Sorry, please go on.
Emily: No. But yes. Just that I don't know. I went to a therapy session where the therapist said don't bring up anything that's happened. If it hasn't happened in the last two weeks, then you're not allowed to bring it up. Just to break that pattern.
Emily: I know. I thought it was really good and it did help just to get myself out of the pattern of being like, "Well, you fucking did this six months ago or whatever."
Dedeker: That's a call back to our episode on healing old wounds and resentments because it can be so hard when I've definitely to point in relationships where it's like the conflict we're having today is connected in this spiderweb to every conflict we've had the past year that maybe never fully actually got resolved and that's why it's all still connected. It's going to be so hard to get yourself out of that mode.
Jase: I was going to bring this one up to, so I'm glad you talked about that, Emily. But just this idea of not just, "You're saying I did this but what about when you did the same thing?" But even just in the middle of the argument pivoting to an entirely different argument, about some completely other thing that happened that maybe you feel you have more leverage in that one. Or maybe it's an argument that you already feel like you've won and so you want to rehash that one because you know you can win it. I think there's a lot of stuff like that that can go on.
Something else that I wanted to bring up in relation to this, and we'll talk about this more in our techniques for One through in the moment. But in terms of being the most emotional one versus being the Vulcan who's super rational about it, I think that's one that I found has been really powerful to try to-- very intentionally, try to be both. It's like rather than thinking like, "I want to be in the middle." It's like, "I want to be both. I want to allow myself to feel and also receive the emotions that I'm getting from you while at the same time maintaining a sense of being able to be rational about and almost like observe it from outside."
It's just the one I realized we didn't have specifically on our other lesson. I found that one to be really helpful which is specifically something that I got from Shambhala meditation, which I high recommend the book, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. Really, really good book.
Emily: We're going to talk about the things in the moment now.
Dedeker: In an ideal world, you would work out all your stuff in the context of a radar or you'd work it all out in a very nice respectful calm, loving way but we don't live in that an ideal world and so that means that we do run into conflicts. So what are some things that people can do when they find themselves actually in the moment of things getting a little bit heated, emotions flaring and now in the middle of an argument?
Emily: Halt or halted or--
Dedeker: In the name of love perhaps?
Emily: Yes. Well, no. It's funny because I always say dehalted but I guess--
Dedeker: You say dehalted?
Emily: Or dehalt. [laughs]
Jase: I see you put a D at the beginning.
Dedeker: You don't say halted, you say dehalted. That's--
Emily: Exactly, but I think halted is probably better but we've talked about it a lot on this show. It is hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or drunk.
Jase: Or drinking.
Emily: Or drinking, yes. If you're drinking, probably not the best time as you were slowly getting drunk to have an argument. Your inhibitions are going to be down. But because of all of those things, your inhibitions are just anything. Your emotional well-being many not be at the best place if you were hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or drinking. So definitely first and foremost, look and see if any of those things are the case and then maybe think about having an argument in a different time.
Jase: Have you guys heard of decision fatigue? Are you familiar with the concept? It's basically this idea that every decision that we make takes a certain amount of energy that we have and we only have a certain amount each day. We have less of it as we're more hungry or if we're not getting enough sleep or we haven't developed that ability as much.
For people, for example, the president of the United States. Any president not just this particular one. I don't want to talk about him. Any president of the US has someone else pick out their clothes for them every day and the reason for this actually is decision fatigue. It's taking away any unnecessary, unimportant decisions so that the bulk of the president's mental energy can be used for that or for Twitter.
Emily: Is that true?
Jase: Damn it. I did it. Shit don't talk about him. Yes, that is actually true and that there are a lot of business--
Dedeker: You get a mixed sense with this why I don't think the president chooses his or her own meals. Yes, I'm including a her in there because maybe someday.
Jase: I love it. That's why I kept saying the president instead of using a pronoun at all.
Dedeker: Oh. Great.
Jase: Anyway, actually a lot of business people especially in positions where they're having to make a lot of decisions at more CEO level will do things like that. Either plan all of their wardrobes in advance or have someone else do that; same with their food. You can even this in your own life which is taking care of some of those mundane decisions that are still going to use up decision energy in the evening instead of having to do them in the morning so that right away in the morning you can be productive and use that energy.
That same decision fatigue also applies to self-control so that's why you're more likely to break your diet at night that you're in the morning because you've used up a lot of your decision-making ability and so you're going to make less good decisions which equates having less self-control.
I think that the same thing applies to emotional management. Emotional control for yourself because I think that's again, a form of self-control. It's that I feel something and I choose how I want to react to it rather than just acting the way I feel right then. It's the same thing if you're tired, if it's the end of your day, if you're hungry, if you're drinking, anything that's going to decrease your ability to have self-control and make rational decisions is going to make your discussions a lot less effective, so just halt. [laughs] You can come back to it another time but plan a time to do it. Don't just leave it forever.
Dedeker: Obviously, it again depends on what the context is. If you realize like, "Oh. We're getting snappy at each other because I'm super hungry." Go take care of that or if it is like, "I'm too angry to actually have a productive discussion about this." Go hang out by yourself for a couple of hours or go take a walk or go take a run or whatever it is that helps you process your anger to be able to step back to it.
The whole taking time away from each other, I do want to highlight that as being intentional and different from using the tool of isolating because it's different when in the middle of an argument you storm off, slam the door and lock your partner out of your room and don't say anything about it for a number of hours. Or, if you're just walking around the house, stonewalling your partner and not saying anything and ignoring what they say.
Jase: The silent treatment.
Dedeker: The silent treatment, doing that. Versus if you're like, "You know what? I'm really angry." Or "I'm just too sad to actually talk about this right now. I'm going to take an hour and go take a walk." Even though that is you separating, maybe that is you isolating yourself but with communication and with intentionality rather than as a tactic to try to win the argument.
Jase: Something I found myself doing is also adding a reassurance that, "Even though I'm really frustrated or angry right now, that I do have faith that we're going to work through this and I still love you but leave me the fuck alone for a little while." [laughs] Just to add that in. Again, maybe that's part of my baggage of not wanting to feel abandoned. but I've definitely found that it's made me feel better and hopefully it's made my partners feel better as well; to get that little reassurance along with it. Even when I know that I'm really angry and I'm not acting much like I love you right now just feel like I do, I'm confident we're going to get through this even if I don't totally feel it myself. That fake it till you make it thing of, "I have confidence we're going to figure out a way to work through this I'm glad that we're talking about it but let's do it later."
Dedeker: Something else that you can do in the moment, now this is actually ideal if you have decided it's time to halt now we're going to take a little time away from each other and you have a little bit of time to recenter and ground yourself and reflect. It could be good to check for what I like to call competing realities, some people call competing narratives.
It's basically the fancy-smancy way of saying that there's multiple sides to the story but it's not just that it's recognizing like you have a story of how things went down or whatever it is that you're arguing about or disagreeing about. Your partner also has a story of how things went down. The thing that's important to accept and to recognize is that both of those stories are simultaneously true and false. Simultaneously true in that for you, your story is your reality. It is because it's your perception, it is your reality. For your partner their story is their reality, their perception.
But then, there also is actual reality of what actually happened, which unfortunately no human being actually really has the monopoly in it. Being able to recognize and just accept that neither of you in this situation is the one person who knows what the truth is and knows exactly what happened. It's a little bit of a heady concept but if you're taking time apart in a fight, it can be good to start writing down like what's my version of the story, what's my partner's version of the story and writing that down with the assumption that your partner has good intentions. That's a really interesting writing exercise to like write your partner's version of the story with good intentions can be really, really illuminating. But it's just this.
What I see often with clients is that anytime there's a conflict where one person insists like, "No, I saw what happened, I know what you said, I know what I said like.This is the way it was and you did this and then I did this and like I will not accept any other alternative to that." That's where a conflict tends to perpetually a lot; is when there's a person in a situation who has trouble accepting and acknowledging that there may be multiple realities essentially, and not in a weird cosmic cipher way.
Jase: Although I have found that in arguments about the existence of parallel universes not being able to believe in them can be a stumbling block there too.
Emily: Oh sure, that would make sense.
Jase: I found this one in addition to this scenario where it's a way to to get past trying to have a monopoly on the truth, I've also found it for me to be a really effective way of essentially establishing a starting point from which to reach a resolution, from which to make things better. Something that Dedeker and I have talked about in the past is, once we get to a point of saying, "Okay, it seems like we both have very different stories about something that's been going on for a while." Then with each other having that conversation of like, "Here's what it seems like you're saying your story is." Then the other person be like, "It seems like yours is this. Can we change those, is it possible for us to adjust those stories or what can we do that will accommodate both stories?"
But it's just even with each other and hopefully your partner has also listened to this episode and they're like, "Wow, love it." If you're both on the same page about it can be super effective in terms of saying, "Okay great, now we know that we both have these two different realities I had no idea because my reality was my truth. I had no idea you would experience yours that way. Great, now that we know we can work toward making something better we can work toward changing that so that it's more positive."
In addition to this we also have written down a list here I love, it's just whip out all the great tools that we've talked about.
Emily: The millions of great, great tools.
Jase: Obviously, we talked about radar already is more of a before the discussion thing. Although, I suppose you could actually do a little mini radar right there in the moment if you needed.
Dedeker: Possibly if feel like you wanted that structure.
Emily: An emergency radar.
Jase: Yes, an emergency radar. I like that. One source would be our Five ways to suck less at communication episode where we talk about a few different communication techniques. They're also sprinkled throughout a lot of our other episodes but there are things like nonviolent communication or using the tri force of communication, maybe part of this conflict is because one of us trying to give advice when the other person just wants support. That it could be as simple as that and you could avoid having the whole argument.
Anyway, all of these things and that's it's an opportunity to look at which tools work for you,try them out see what techniques work maybe even prepare a little scripts with each other. I know that sounds really cheesy but I found it can be really effective if you have set patterns of ways that you say things. Like NVC, nonviolent communications, built around that. There's other ones as well of allowing you to follow a script can help you to still be communicating truthfully but to do it in a way that you can have little touchstones or buoys, as I like to call them, of am I still on the right track in terms of communicating this effectively?
Then another one I want to bring up here that's on our list is to do your best to avoid saying things like, "you always", or "you never", type of statements.
Emily: I hate that shit,
Dedeker: It's really hard.
Jase: I am better about this I'm so much better than I was before maybe I'm not better about it anymore but I know that there was a time when I absolutely did this. Every argument that I was in my 20s it was like well, you're always doing this or you're always saying this or but you never do this thing. I find that now I usually can catch myself as I'm thinking it before I say it and stopping and going okay, is there a more truthful way that I could say something like that, away to make it more personal rather than, "you always", or "you never do something", I think that's a huge one.
Dedeker: Yes that's a huge one.
Jase: I wish I had a better technique of how to do that besides just like becoming aware of it and then just like training yourself in that ability to stop yourself before you say it.
Dedeker: Even often just getting yourself to do the whole "I" statements thing over "you" statement thing.
Jase: Yes, I was going to say that like "I feel" statements too.
Dedeker: That in itself is helpful it's not a perfect solution because it can be very easy to be like, "I always feel like you're a dick to me."
Jase: "I always notice you always--"
Dedeker: Just saying use "I" statements by itself is not--
Jase: Disguising it in like, " I feel like you always do this."
Dedeker: Exactly or like, "I feel attacked, I feel judged, I feel criticized," is just the flip side of saying, "You're attacking me, you're criticizing me," things like that. That one is a little bit of a tricky one, but just having an awareness of that in itself. I think, like Emily was talking about that whole two weeks rule, that really helps because as soon as you say you always and you never you're immediately referencing the entire history of the relationship.
Emily: Which is bullshit because most likely there was a time in your relationship when conflict was not as present or at least when like the specific conflict in which you are bringing up that that wasn't the case. To say always is just illogical, it's not a real thing. I really like the two week thing.
Dedeker: I think that's not to say though that if there are some systemic issues in your relationship that's not to say that you can never talk about systemic things but it can be I think radar is actually a great contacts for talking about these things to be like, "Hey, I've noticed that we've come into this particular disagreement a number of times now. I notice that we've- "This is a really silly example but like with Jase, "I notice that we've often fought about when to eat food."
Jase: It's true.
Emily: I've noticed that Jase often gets angry about the dishwasher being loaded incorrectly.
Jase: You know what I don't I don't get angry.
Dedeker: Let me pass this one but I just say by limiting "you always" or "you never" statements it doesn't mean that you can't acknowledge anything that's been systemic or repetitive. If something has been systemic and repetitive it means you probably should address it sooner rather than later; but still taking care to avoid those sweeping blanket statements about somebody's behavior.
Jase: Yes, like the phrasing that I feel like will often come up for all three of us is just saying, "I feel like I'm noticing a pattern that's happening, here's what it is. Is there something we can do together to try to change this?" Rather than, "You always do this, this is your problem." I think also saying, "You always do this also carries with it this implication that you believe they're always going to do it forever into the future too. It's one thing to say, "You have always done this in the past versus you always do it as a continuous state." Not that I think either is a good thing to say, but it carries with it that which is kind of setting yourself up for failure or setting them up for failure because it's saying, "I don't believe you're going to change." Even in subtle ways are not going to be as supportive to them actually changing that behavior. I think I've noticed a pattern and let's try to break out of it can be really effective.
Also the advantage of using radar or something that's regular is then you have a preset period to say, "Here's the pattern. Let's try to change this and then in a month we can revisit this and see if we did." All right. So then you have even a clearer way to see-- Oh, you don't always do this because we just went a month where there were these times it didn't happen or something like that.
Dedeker: That's cool.
Emily: The other thing again watch your arsenal, watch your inner weapons rack. Again if you've done the work ahead of time, and you're able to recognize like, "Oh, this is a shitty thing that I do or this is another shitty thing that I do." If you've already done that work, then when you're in the moment and emotions are high and it starts to come out, you can be like, "Oh, that's that thing that I always do when I think that I am about to lose an argument and I'm trying not to." Be aware of that, to pull in some of the government institute stuff. Also, be aware of bringing in what they call "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" for your relationship.
Often, the stuff that we pull out of our arsenal are tools that we have at the ready for winning an argument often fall into these four categories, like some iteration of these four categories. Just to review that's stonewalling, which is things like giving the silent treatment or isolating or ignoring your partner or intentionally shutting them out not in a communicative compassionate way. Things like contempt which can be like sarcasm, eye rolling, name calling.
Jase: Like personal attacks.
Emily: Personal attacks, I think, that tactic of doing the holier-than-thou like, "I'm better than you because I can keep my emotions in check, and you're irrational." Some of that can be a little bit of contemptuous as well.
Jase: I can see that.
Emily: Like belittling behavior as well. Things like criticism, which is like not constructive criticism but like direct attacks. It falls into those things. Like you always, you never, things like that. Or blaming/defending so as in not taking responsibility like you're putting all the responsibility on the other person. Stuff like the whataboutism, which is all about making it about your issues or your things that you've done bad or defending as in like being very defensive about everything and having a justification for every possible little thing that your partner may take issues with. Those are the four horsemen, those four broad categories.
You'll probably find as you do the personal work of figuring out what are your silly tactics and games that you play in arguments, often they will fall into those four categories.
Jase: Yes, gosh, I'm thinking of even more things as we're going through this. Those four cover a lot.
Emily: Yes, they do.
Dedeker: Finally, if there's just like too much going on, if there's too much volatility, a lot of like repeating oneself or interrupting each other, then just try to go into separate rooms. This is an interesting thing apparently. It sounds weird but it's worked for a lot of people is communicate via email or text
Emily: When you're in the same house or same apartment, not as in you're both at work and you're just fighting via texts.
Dedeker: Yes, exactly. But, talk to each other via text or email which is cool because there is something amazing about writing down your thought process or your argument or just where you're coming from and being able to look at it and analyze it and then repeat it back to a person or send it off to a person and have them like, "We'll get it from that standpoint." I think it often like, again, can take the emotion out of it a bit. Not necessarily, but it can add rationalization maybe to something or it can be more rational.
Emily: Yes, this tactic can be helpful for a number of different scenarios. Sometimes people just have a hard time expressing their emotions or their thoughts when they are face -to-face with their partner staring at them or looking at them. Sometimes that makes people just much more uncomfortable and have a harder time coming up with their words versus being able to sit down and write them out, gives a little bit more time to process and to pick the right words that aren't maybe necessarily just emotionally fueled.
If you're falling into a pattern where the two of you are just constantly interrupting each other, it can help to give some space into that communication and slow the communication down and so that both sides can feel like-- Obviously, I'm going to send an email and there isn't a way for you to interrupt in the middle of that email without me being able to write out my thoughts and feelings. In relationships where things are particularly heated, I've had times sitting next to a partner typing on the same laptop, on a flight actually.
Dedeker: On the same laptop, okay.
Emily: Yes, on the same laptop just passing back and forth. Even that level of separation was enough to be able to actually have a productive discussion.
Jase: Yes, that's interesting actually to add that element of even being in the same room but saying we're going to have this conversation through text messages or emails or something, that is interesting. There could be something to it. This is not a technique that I have used, so I can't really speak for it. I know that I've definitely found with certain partners that some people just feel like they can express themselves more clearly in writing than they can speaking.
Jase: I feel myself I'm more of the opposite, that I have a harder time putting things down into words that I feel like I can speak out loud. Just something to try though. I think that a time when I have written things down beforehand that I've then said to somebody, is if it's something where I'm especially afraid of their reaction to it, but it's something that I need to say. That it's something that's important to me. I don't want to get derailed by their emotional reaction or their angry reaction to it or whatever it is that I found it useful for that. I could see this technique working in that kind of a situation too.
Dedeker: I haven't specifically done the going into separate rooms of the house and talking about something via text message. But, I have found that maybe later on in the day or even a couple hours later, you speak to someone via text or email there can be a certain amount of gentleness that's allowed back into the conversation from doing that. Again, I think, time and space is helpful because like you said you're not in front of the other person confronting them being like, "I have to win this argument. I have to make my voice heard. I feel like I'm not being understood."
And all of the volatility that comes from that. I don't know, maybe it can just allowed for a little bit more kindness to seep back into the conversation when you're away from that person.
Jase: Yes, all right. What about after we've used all these techniques and we've gotten to the end of our argument or our fight or whatever we're going to call it. What are some things that we can do here?
Emily: Well, let's talk about the end of a fight, first of all, because ideally there's been some kind of solution or resolution or closure, ideally. That doesn't necessarily mean that both of you are going to walk away from it feeling fantastic, right? Sometimes you do. Sometimes you get through an argument. You get through a fight. You start to see eye-to-eye. You come up with some kind of solution, then you feel good and lovey-dovey and makeup sex and whatever.
For many of us that's not always the case. Even if we come to a solution, even if we feel understood, you can still just feel icky afterwards because it can still be an emotional roller coaster. It can still not feel great. I think that when I was writing this section I wanted to think about what about that residual ickiness that you have after a fight, even if things have been resolved.
Jase: Something to be mindful about with this is to avoid punishing your partner afterward even if you feel like it's been resolved. This could look like just being passive-aggressive. It could be seeking revenge which I think can also look like-- Especially if you come to a specific agreement, trying to do that like following the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. To be like, "Okay, how can I find a way around this or a way to show them that this rule is stupid by violating it in a roundabout way."
There's these little things that we do that sound very childish when you say them like that but come up a lot, that I feel like we've all done some form of this. Of kind of punishing our partner for a while after a fight just through our behavior. That's something to be mindful of and to try to take active steps to avoid doing, especially if you know that that's in your arsenal.
Emily: I guess that's another part of that exercise is also looking like, "What do I do after a fight?" [laughs]
Jase: Am I still trying to win it even though we've resolved it somehow.
Emily: Interesting. Another thing that can be helpful, something that Jase and I have incorporated in the past is if we've come to a solution, and we know that we're feeling good about that part but we still feel icky, is to add an appreciation round like you do in the radar.
You know, sometimes that will be like, "Can we just have a little quick appreciation round right now? Which can be just-" "Okay." We sit down then compliment each other, say specific things that you are thankful for, for each other. Any kind of words of affirmation or verbal forms of affection or maybe even touch, things like that. Just little reconnecting activities. It doesn't have to be make-up sex. I'm actually-
Jase: I think really it is.
Emily: - I'm not even really into make-up sex as a concept at all. I think it's much better to--
Jase: Works for some people-
Emily: Works for some people, sure.
Jase: - but not for me.
Emily: Not for me either. But to just take a moment to build each other back up again, essentially.
Jase: I think, also, if it's been a conversation where you have been spending a lot of time criticizing each other. Maybe it's been constructive criticism, hopefully, it has been. But it's nice to then after that, take a little moment both for yourself and for your partner to talk about the things you do appreciate. Because I feel so often we can get focused on what's wrong and not talk about what's good, what's right. I think having this opportunity to-- Even I think a lot of times it can even be, "I really appreciate your willingness to have this conversation with me."
Or, "I really appreciate that you're willing to work together with me to make this better." Or it could be about something else entirely. Like, "I really admire how good you are at your job. I really admire watching you do that." Or, "I really admire how well you keep the house clean." This can look like so many different things that is really good especially after a time of maybe some criticism to reestablish like, "Hey, but here's all these awesome things about you that I do appreciate and I don't take them for granted."
Dedeker: The next one is doing an alternate activity together or separately just to get your mind off of something else. For me, video games are always really good thing. I do have a lot of games that I can play with my partner which are really fun. Doing something cooperatively in that way can be really fun, I think, and very meaningful. I don't know. I really value that. Or go and see a movie.
Jase: Maybe going straight into like playing Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter against each other might not be the best.
Dedeker: Yes. No. Again, emphasis on the cooperation.
Emily: Or Hearthstone I found, and personal experience. Don't try to play Hearthstone.
Jase: Maybe just don't do a competitive game.
Emily: Don't do a competitive game.
Dedeker: Oh my god. No. Do like Secret of Mana because that one is cooperative and really good. Or Dream Daddy.
Emily: That's a really good one.
Dedeker: And it's so sweet.
Jase: Derick and I really like those kind of story-based games rather than action-based.
Dedeker: Me too.
Jase: Because, they don't have to be made for two players for you to play them together. Because you have time to read it and say, "Oh, what do we going to do?" Or "What do you think going to happen next?" "I think I know." Those kinds of things can be really fun. Unlike a movie where you have to constantly pause it, the game is waiting for you to prompt the next thing.
Jase: Another one in the same vein that I really like is doing some physical activity to get the tension out of your body. I've noticed this especially during heavy talks. Even if it's not an argument but just where we're talking about heavy things or maybe I'm supporting a partner that I'll start to notice my breathing getting more shallow, my chest getting tight, or I'll be very hunched over or we're cuddling in a weird position. There's lots of different things that, for me, I find that usually it's something I want to do is some kind of movement afterward. I've been at discussion groups where this could mean everyone gets up and does some kind of--
Emily: Interpretative dance?
Jase: Maybe not interpretative dance but shaking it out or [sound] making noises and shaking around. That can be fine. I find for me, often, it's just getting up and stretching or going for a walk is something that--
Dedeker: Go take a yoga class.
Jase: Yes. Even something that's just shorter. You can even just-- Yes, I think a yoga class afterward probably be really good for me, but even just going for a walk. Doing something to get yourself out of that body language of conflict.
Emily: Yes. I think this is where if you have more somatic experience or awareness. I'm starting to develop some awareness of where certain emotions live in your body or where muscles tend to tighten up when you're feeling like you want to protect yourself, or what happens in your body when you're starting to feel angry, of just having an awareness of that in the first place. Then taking steps to actually, literally, release those muscles. Whether it's through a massaging or stretching or going for a run or whatever. It can really make a big difference. I feel like there's so many tactics that we could throw at you for handling conflicts.
Jase: But these were some really good ones.
Dedeker: I’d like to think so.
Emily: Let’s hope so.
Emily: If some of these work for you, definitely let us know or some of these backfire for you definitely let us know too. Because that's always a possibility, we'd love to know about that too. I just want to end off this episode by giving a disclaimer that if you're in a relationship that is filled with a lot of conflict and where you're having to give a lot of energy and a lot of effort to managing conflict all the time. It is okay to leave that relationship. The solution is not always going to be like, "I have to take it on me to figure out ways on how to solve this conflict." Sometimes the solution is, "I, actually, need to not be in this relationship."
Like we've talked about on past episodes, check what your ratio is. If positive interactions to negative interactions. If you feel like it's a 50/50 split, that's not good enough. If you feel it's a 60/40 split, that's not good enough.
Jase: Not good enough.
Emily: Science says it's 1:5. Right?
Jase: It's a one negative interaction for every five positives.
Emily: It's 80/20. One negative interaction to every five positive ones.
Jase: It's actually less than 80/20.
Emily: Is it less?
Jase: Because this is one out of six. The Math doesn't work quite as nice. It's like one out of every eight. They're like 18% or something like that.
Dedeker: 18%. Give or take a couple percentage.
Emily: So, be aware of that. Obviously, it doesn't mean either extreme like don't be afraid of any conflict happening that you think things are healthy or unhealthy and toxic. But also if it's a tonic conflict that's not okay, either. Watch out for any gaslighting that may be happening. If someone is trying to insist that there shouldn't be any conflict whatsoever and that you're making it up by bringing up any kind of argument, that's not okay. Or, if there's a lot f conflict and someone's trying to tell you, "No, our relationship is great and you should be happy." That's also not okay.
Also, take care that conflicts or fights or arguments that happen that they are actually resolved. At the end of an argument, if you're still feeling icky, check whether that's just residual ickiness or if it's like, "No, actually, that feels like it wasn't resolved." Because those things can build up overtime and build resentment and become really old toxic wounds. Also, make sure that it's resulting in steps forward. That's why, of course, we always say, we love radar because it actually forces you to have that conversation about what are the next steps forward? what are the actions that we're going to take?
Just have an awareness that the conflict that you're having is ultimately constructive more often than it's destructive.
Jase: Yes. Something I wanted to point out too. You'll notice with the tools that we've talked about here, there are few that you do together with a partner such as radar or the going into separate rooms and texting with each other, things like that. There are a number of them that are something that you do yourself, right. That involves some introspection or some monitoring of the ways that you behave and the things you do during this discussion.
You'll noticed that none of these are things that you are forcing upon your partner. None of them are things that you're forcing them to do. But, hopefully, they should be doing these things too. I would say that's another one here with this disclaimer. If your relationship is filled with conflict but that also resolving conflict in a healthy way is something that involves both parties. I think a lot of people can get caught up in the idea that if I just learn enough techniques about how to be good enough with my communication, how to be good enough in resolving conflict, that I'll be able to make this work by myself without my partner doing their side of it to help.
So often I see people who are very diligent about learning how to have better relationships, having really negative ones, because of that. Because they feel like, "Oh, just must be that I haven't learned enough of the techniques so I'm not using them well enough." Or something. And we'll stay in really hurtful relationships or even they don't have to be with bad people. But it's just not a great relationship. Both of you are ultimately going to be happier without that even if doesn't seem like that at the moment. That is something to keep in mind. Hopefully, though.
Emily: Yes. You shouldn't be the only person in your relationship trying to resolve conflict.
Jase: Right. And if that is the case, that doesn't mean you need to try harder to force them to resolve conflict. It just means maybe that's not a relationship that you should stay in as hard as that maybe.
Emily: We always end on that note.
Jase: I know, right?
Jase: I just think it's worth saying because I think so much of the--
Emily: It's okay to not be in this relationship. Iit is okay and it's probably actually good.
Jase: One of the things that I find so upsetting that I see in a lot of the mainstream dating advice out there that's very much based in this Christian monogamy way of like once you're committed to this, you can never get out of it. If it's not working it's just because you are failing, rather than just saying it's okay sometimes to not be in the relationship anymore.
I think that's one of the most destructive and dangerous things that I hear so often is mainstream dating advice which is probably why we bring it up so often. Because, you could interpret our stuff the same way, of saying, "Yes, use all these tools and then you'll never have breakups." That's just not the way it works. Anyway, sorry for ending on a downer every time but, I think it's worth it. Maybe for you that won't be a downer, it will be the thing that sets you free.
Jase: But I'm also sorry for you going through that. All right, thank you hosts--
Dedeker: We are here for you.
Jase: Yes, we are. If you want support, you can join our Patreon group.
Jase: Yes. If you have a specific question or a comment that you want to be played on the show, you can call our phone number, which is 678-MULTI-05. And you can leave us a voicemail there. Or, you can send us an audio message through our Multiamory Facebook page. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can send us a message on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. We respond to all of those ourselves, sometimes it takes us a while to get back and I'm sorry if we do. But often, that's how we get our inspiration for episode topics, to know what's on people's minds. It's prompted us to make adjustments to the format of our show.