Is My Marriage Worth Saving? 6 Ways to Know When to Quit and When to Fight

Is My Marriage Worth Saving? 6 Ways to Know When to Quit and When to Fight

Is My Marriage Worth Saving?

6 Ways to Know When to Quit and When to Fight

How do you know when it is time to call it quits in your personal relationships? Is there a defining moment, or has the relationship been going downhill so long that you forgot the last time it was on an upswing? Not surprisingly, Americans are very concerned about the state of their personal relationships today. 93% of Americans state that having a happy marriage is one of their goals in life. But not everyone gets to have it.

If you’re a longtime reader (thank you, by the way), you already know how tedious and labor intensive having a rewarding, happy marriage is. Saving one that’s on the brink of divorce is doubly difficult. So the question stands, how does a guy know when to dig in and try harder than he ever has in his life, and when do you forgive yourself for failing?

Here’s how.

6 Strategies to Help You Know When to Quit or Fight

1. Positive versus Negative

Successful marriage counselors John Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver stated in their best-selling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work that they could gauge the success of 91% of couples they treated within the first 15 minutes of their initial session. The key lies in the level of positivity spouses used in their interactions.

They note that couples who responded with a yes-friendly way were more likely to be successful in saving their respective marriages. Couples who added the word “but,” as in “Yes, but…,” didn’t fair as well long term.

Using positive terms in everyday conversations creates a positive bond between spouses that ensures the marriage has some strong footing.

Their “Yes, but” couples displayed obvious reservations about their willingness to put in the time and energy into repairing their tattered union.

To Quit or to Fight?

This answer goes either way because couples with positive attitudes should have the occasional disagreement. Negative couples either need to reevaluate or quit.

2. The Power of Humor

Knock, Knock!

Who’s there?

The future of your marriage…

The future of my marriage, who?

The future of your marriage is affected by your daily interactions. Namely, can you laugh at what’s not going your way? Can you joke around and poke lighthearted fun at your spouse?

It’s the “…best medicine” according to the old adage. It links us and connects us to others emotionally.

A study conducted by Saroglou, Lacour, and Demeure looked into laughter as the component of healthy marriages. They set about to compare men and women from 98 married couples and 48 divorced ones.

Their conclusions show that women who employ self-defeating humor were more likely to end up divorced. Men who displayed constructive humor increased the quality of their relationships and decreased their likelihood of divorce.

To Quit or to Fight?

Humor plays an important role in relationships and demonstrates a couple’s ability to keep going or to quit. A relationship lacking laughter isn’t a happy relationship.

3. Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Numerous studies report how older married couples have fewer occurrences of disease, lower heart disease risks, and a decreased chance of developing dementia.

However, new studies discovered that older women in bad marriages are at an increased risk of heart disease than those in good relationships. Women in their 70’s and 80’s are from a generation before the popularity of marriage counseling. These scientists concluded that older women who internalize their feelings have higher instances of depression and suffer cardiovascular problems due to their lack of support.

That is not surprising since other research shows how a woman’s neural activity relates to their husbands positive or negative emotions more than they do to strangers. Spouses can literally change the other’s brain chemistry with their daily interactions.

To Quit or to Fight?

IF your marriage is slowly killing you, then it might be time to consider quitting.

when to quit and when to fight for your marriage4. Counseling

Raise your hands if you’ve been to marriage counseling?

If your hand isn’t waving around in the air like you just don’t care, you’re one of the few who hasn’t. For the newbies among us, here’s how it works.

First of all, no one who goes into it out of obligation will get anything out of it. If you don’t want to work harder than you think you should, stay home. Save your cash. You’ll need it for your divorce attorney.

If you’re pumped and ready to change almost everything you’ve come to know about your union, enter in with an open mind and yielding heart.

Sometimes you’ll go in together. Other sessions will be private and one-on-one. These sessions will be about different things and will help you get a perspective you’ve never had before.

A marriage counselor is like a referee. When the both of you go, you’ll get the advantage of learning the playbook and whose job is what. On your own, your counselor will focus on you specifically. You’ll leave there with a list of assignments to complete designed to give you a new focus.

To Quit or to Fight?

Most guys tend to put up their defenses when talking about couples’ counseling. Don’t. Think it through. In fact, you should consider setting it up in the beginning when your view of married life is filtered through rose-colored glasses. This way, you’ll set up a strong foundation of being willing to understand things you might not think you don’t.

But if you’re in trouble, and your spouse doesn’t seem to want to spend time in therapy with you, ask her why. If her answer angers you, it’s time to quit.

5. Keep Score: Write About It

Learning the playbook is great! It’s an awesome start. But no game is played without knowing for damn sure who’s doing what and how well.

Recording your thoughts either daily or weekly will help you do just that. It’ll keep you accountable to yourself as a man. If you set out to come home on the daily and hold a worthwhile conversation with your wife about her day (for example), and you want to be able to remember that chick’s name she keeps mentioning, write it down.

Professionals have discussed the merits of writing (technically, it’s journaling) for catharsis for years. It’s not new. But do it while you’re still in it.

To Quit or to Fight?

This one isn’t as clear as the ones before it. Not journaling regularly won’t (by itself) kill your marriage. It’s a tool like any other. How you use it is completely up to you. And by the same token, you can’t really blame your wife if she decides not to do it. We’ll call this one optional.

Take it from me, though, it helps. Since my divorce, I journal regularly. I don’t focus on my divorce or harp heavily on whatever still looming negativity I might still be feeling. But I do go there and use it to lift off some of my frustrations.

6. What About the Kids?

In Take Back Your Marriage, Second Edition: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart, William J. Duherly talks about the role of kids in adults’ decision making. His research yielded some rather interesting findings.

He states, “70% of unhappily married, low-conflict parents’ kids do not do as well. 30% of unhappily married, high-conflict parent kids do better after the divorce.”

All the research over time has shown that two-parent families do better. Therefore, if the parents can get along, then it is reasonable to assume that the parents can stay together for the benefit of the children.

On the reverse side, parents who are constantly in conflict might do better for their kids if they separate. What is needed is a joint goal to keep them together.

For example, Duherly talks about one family whose belief in having a family Shabbat dinner helped them work out their challenges. They beat the odds because both of them strongly believed carrying on their religious tradition was necessary part of raising their kids.

Final Thoughts

Determining whether to stay or leave is not easy. It’s not supposed to be. Building a life over time and destroying everything you’ve built almost overnight hurts. But so does staying in a unideal marriage. Actually, it hurts more than walking away does.

It is a very personal decision, and you should weigh your options carefully. The information above is meant to give you some ideas. While not an absolute science, knowing where you stand and what you’re willing to do to save your union will make it easier to arrive at your final decision.

Give us some insights in the comments below. How did you know when to stay in and fight and when it was time to walk away? Is there something we missed, or something you found resonated with you? Let us know.

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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder Science Proves There's Some Truth to the Od Adage

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder Science Proves There's Some Truth to the Od Adage

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder:

Science Proves There’s Some Truth to the Old Adage

An important study published in the online Journal of Communication found that the old saying is true. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder!

At least it does if you are actively involved in a long-distance romance. There are plenty of reasons that partners may be absent or far apart from one another, and growing fonder is not always the end result!

Long Distance Romance

In the Journal of Communication study published by L. Crystal Jiang and Jeffrey T. Hancock, the researchers tracked both long-distance and geographically close couples to gather information on their methods of communication like texting, phone calls, video chats, and in-person meetings. They investigated how often the couples communicated, the quality and content of those conversations, and how the participants felt about the communications with each other.

The results showed that long-distance couples felt closer to their partners and contacted each other much more often than couples who saw each other all the time.

The long-distance couples consistently had a more fantasized and romantic perception of each other. No big surprise there, considering they didn’t see the ordinary and boring side of each other every day.

It is easy to see how that first excitement of a relationship lasts longer when daily chores, child care and other “adulting” activities aren’t part of the relationship!

Honesty is the best policy if a long-distance relationship is going to survive and develop into a long term commitment. While the study suggests that the happiest couples are those that are most open in their communication, there is always the danger that a long-distance partner is feeding the fantasy and not showing his or her true colors!

Long Distance Marriages

It used to be fairly common for the husband to be away from home for long periods of time in military service or for work projects. Now it is just as likely to be the wife that is gone for months at a time on a tour of duty or civilian jobs like working on an oil rig, homeland security or on a political campaign!

Another version of the long-distance marriage is the commuter marriage, where both the husband and wife work and live in separate homes in different locations, usually because they each have high-powered professional careers. These couples live apart several nights a week for extended periods of time.

The Science Behind Absence Makes the Heart Grow Stronger-Right SizeIn these situations, there is still one “home base” for the couple, and they both expect the traveling partner to eventually move back home. Just like other long-distance romances, the key to making the heart grow fonder is frequent and meaningful communication. Meaningful communication is more than a daily phone call or email about household problems and bills!

The longer the absence, especially when children are involved, the more risk there is that fondness may turn to resentment.

The person acting as primary parent, chief cook and bottle washer for months to years at a time may eventually get tired of being the one responsible for the daily chores and having to be the one to say no to the children. The traveling parent should avoid undermining the other parent’s authority with the kids or acting like Santa Claus when they get home for visits.

It can be just as damaging to a marriage when the traveling spouse does come home to stay – if there isn’t some respect for the household rules and routines that developed while everyone lived apart. Make sure to make advance discussion of those issues part of your meaningful long-distance communication!

Short Term Separations

When romantic couples are separated, even for a few days, it can be distressing to both partners. A study published in the Journal of Personal Social Psychology looked at the physical and emotional changes to 42 couples over a period that included separations from 4 days to a week. They measured sleep, stress, physical symptoms and cortisol levels of the couples.

In most cases, the partner remaining at home suffered more distress that the partner who traveled, but the better and more frequent contact during the separation, the less anxiety for everyone.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder when you phone home!

Fonder After Breakup?

While absence really can make the heart grow fonder, that generally only works when there is already some fondness to begin with! If you’ve been kicked to the curb by your latest love interest, your ex is not automatically pining away for you.

On the other hand, some people don’t appreciate what they had until they throw it away. If your relationship ended because your spouse ran off looking for greener pastures with someone else, months down the road you just might get a call or email begging forgiveness, usually after you have moved on!

Better the Second Time Around

If the breakup happened after a committed relationship such as marriage, there will be intense emotions on both sides, but fondness may not be part of that – at least not for a while. So how is it that some couples get back together, better than ever after a breakup?

The failure of a committed relationship is tough on both partners who have built a life together and became part of each other before the split. Afterward, each person is left with something like a missing part that has to be repaired or replaced to get back to feeling whole again.

Depending on the reasons for the breakup in the first place, getting back together might be a possibility when they have worked on themselves and still can’t imagine life without the other.

While there are some folks that never take responsibility for their part in a breakup, research shows that the people who spend a lot of time thinking about the breakup, what caused the split, and working through the causes of the problems in the relationship ended up with a healthier and more positive self-concept.

In other words, they ended up a better person because of the breakup, and learned to function better as a partner. They took the time and made the effort to work through what happened and why. They got their stuff together! If they re-connect with their ex, they are bringing their best self to the renewed relationship.

Fondness Gone Bad!

Stalking is for real, and can be life-threatening. The rejected partner who becomes obsessed after a breakup tends to be the most persistent kind of stalker – and not all stalkers are men.

Women can be dangerous stalkers, and statistics show that 1 in 19 men have been the victim of a stalker! Female stalkers tend to be educated, devious and persistent.

An international study  of female stalkers indicates that the average woman stalked her victim for almost two years! Stalking behavior can range from social media stalking to telephone harassment to physical violence against the target or those close to him.

If you are being hassled by an ex that won’t give up, get educated on stalking. Don’t hesitate to protect yourself by contacting law enforcement.

Here or There

Regardless of geographical distance or separation, honest, meaningful and frequent communication is the key to making the heart grow fonder when two people are apart.

Have you been in a long-distance relationship? Are you thinking about getting back with your ex? How has absence affected your relationship? Please share your comments and questions below!

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Conflict Resolution, Part 3 Competing and Dominant Fighting Styles

Conflict Resolution, Part 3 Competing and Dominant Fighting Styles

Conflict Resolution, Part 3

Competing and Dominant Fighting Styles

We’ve been talking about fighting. So far we’ve covered avoiding conflict, and accommodating another person’s needs over your own. Our primary focus has been on improving how you fight for your relationship.

For those following along from week one, you know that avoiding conflict will inevitably lead to more conflict and that accommodating, or giving in, to the needs of others can be draining.

Maybe you don’t tend to use either of these. You’re in luck! Today is the day for you.

Before we jump in, let’s take a refresher in conflict styles:

What is a fighting style?

A fighting style, conflict style, whatever you prefer to call it, is the way you choose to engage in a disagreement. As we’ve said before, it’s a learned behavior determined by your experiences and your environment.

Most people tend to use one primary style, but everyone is capable of using any and all styles in their lifetime.

How are these categorized?

The TKI model (covered in depth in Part 1) is the best tool for determining your conflict style and improving it. The model measures a person’s concern for themselves (assertiveness) against their concern for other people (cooperativeness). The result identifies which of the five distinct resolution styles you are more likely to use.

Today’s style of choice? Competing or dominant conflict styles.

Competing/Dominant

Where It Lands on the Scale

Of the three we have covered thus far, the competing style is the highest in assertiveness. Imagine a rocket soaring through the ceiling of assertiveness and you will find dominant style strapped to the front of it. That rocket is also traveling straight up.

The competing style is at the very bottom of the scale in terms of cooperativeness. Dominant fighters are the exact opposite of accommodating fighters.

The terms “dominant” and “competing” are fairly interchangeable when discussing conflict resolution styles.

Characteristics of Dominant Fighters

Typically people who use this style regularly view themselves as defeating an enemy. Their goal is to win, even if they are wrong. Dominant fighters view their needs as the only ones that need to be met or that their opinion is the only one that matters.

When in a disagreement domineering fighters can use name calling and other demeaning tactics.

Because of the high value, they place on themselves, these types of fighters disregard opposing viewpoints with ease. Feelings are secondary when engaged in an argument.

Competing fighters, tend to make decisions quickly, though, which means they can act calmly in emergencies. They can also make tough decisions easily, sometimes hastily.

Effects of Competing Tendencies

Dominant fighters usually get what they want and are achievers, at all costs. Their aggressive tactics can frequently lead to burned bridges.

While the competing style leads to “wins” the tactics aren’t always received well, i.e. people don’t enjoy being steamrolled.

Additionally, people who use this style tend to ignore the needs of the family, in favor of their own. What does that mean? At some point resentment will settle in. If there are more than one competitors in the argument, one may retaliate if they don’t get their way.

In general, this is not a recommended fighting style in relationships because of the volatile emotions it can create.

Conflict ResolutionTo Use or Not to Use

Let’s take a look at when it might be appropriate to use, and when it definitely is not. We will use one of the same scenarios from our week on avoidance:

Scenario 1

Your wife has a system for loading the dishwasher, that she claims results in cleaner dishes. You don’t care how the dishes go in there, because with the push of a button they all get cleaned. You offer to do the dishes after she’s had a long day, but she isn’t thrilled with that idea since you probably won’t load the dishes her way.

After assuring her that they will all get clean, she begins to get frustrated with you. You begin to load the dishwasher anyway. Your wife begins shouting that you are doing it all wrong and that you must be stupid for not knowing how to do this right. She continues to tell you this until you step back and let her rearrange it her way. Once you do this, she is happy.

This is NOT a good way to handle this situation. As you can imagine, the wife “won” the argument, but she sacrificed a peaceful night. Instead of taking the gesture for what it was, a nice thing, she focused in on getting her way and hurting feelings along the way.

Scenario 2

You and your spouse are called by your child’s school. There has been an accident and your child needs medical attention. They tell you they can take your child to the emergency room or that you can come to the school to pick your child up. Your spouse becomes hysterical that something serious is wrong, without actually knowing, and demands to see your child immediately.

You tell the school to take your child to the nearest hospital and you will meet them there. When you arrive your spouse is inconsolable so you make all of the care decisions without conferring with them. You are certain of your decisions and everything turns out fine.

This is one of those few times that absolute assertiveness is good. Decisions needed to be made and you had a clear mind to make them. You took control of the situation.Strategies to improve your fighting technique

Strategies to Improve your Fighting Technique

Dominant fighters tend to lack compassion for other people. For that reason, it’s important to take a step back from the situation and determine if it’s worth “winning” the fight, or saving the relationship.

  1. Evaluate the issue at hand. Is it worth burning a bridge? Is it of the utmost importance to you? Is it important to the other person? Do you know you are 100% right?
  2. Monitor your tactics. It is possible to use the competing style without demeaning or belittling the opposing party. Avoid using accusatory language or flinging insults. This way you can maintain the relationship but also achieve your goal.
  3. “Losing” is not a death sentence. Just because you didn’t get your way, doesn’t mean the world is going to end. It’s okay not to get your way.Extra Resources

Extra Resources

If you are still struggling with gaining compassion for your spouse try finding a workbook on compassion. This one is only $2 at Barnes and Noble.

As always, if you are having serious issues that you feel you can’t resolve on your own, bring in a third party. Licensed therapists and counselors can be objective about matters and often open your eyes to something you may not have seen.

Conclusion

If you’re a more dominant fighter, this week was probably rough on you. Knowing how your chosen style affects your relationships can help you increase your cooperativeness. Remember, winning isn’t everything so it’s good to evaluate each issue to figure out how important the both the relationship and being right is.

We’ve covered all of the extremes of the TKI model. All of which have their place.

Coming up next week we discuss the middle ground: Compromising.

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Conflict Resolution, Part 2 The Accommodating Fighting Style

Conflict Resolution, Part 2 The Accommodating Fighting Style

Conflict Resolution, Part 2:

The Accommodating Fighting Style

Yep, we are breaking the first rule of fight club again!

We’re talking about it.

Last week we began our series on fighting by addressing the first resolution style: Avoidance.

If you’re just now joining us, you’ve probably got a few questions, so let me summarize as best I can.

What Is a Fighting Style?

Your fighting style is the way you choose to address conflicts in your life. Most often the behavior you use is a learned behavior from the biggest influencers in your life.

How are These Categorized?

Typically there are five styles that everybody recognizes thanks to the lifelong work that went into the Thomas-Kilmann model (TKI) of conflict resolution. Thier model measures your concern for yourself (assertiveness) against your concern for other people (cooperativeness).

Now, just because you tend to use one over the others, doesn’t mean you’re incapable of using any or all of them. The TKI is very adamant that these are learned behaviors and being the smart cookies that you are, you will have them all down pat by the end of this series. I’m sure of it.

Let’s dig into this week’s style: Accommodation

Accommodation

Where It Lands on the Scale

Similar to the avoidance style of last week’s article, people using the accommodating style show very little regard for their own needs. They rank at the very bottom of the scale for assertiveness.

But (and you knew there was a but coming somewhere) accommodators have extremely high concerns for the needs of other people. They accommodate them, if you will.

Characteristics of Avoiders

In most situations accommodators can feel like a doormat. That sounds harsh, but when you throw your own needs and desires out of the window time and again in favor of someone else’s, they will eventually pick up on that and use it for their advantage.

We’ll more about that style next week.

Accommodation is also viewed as the most motherly of the five styles, due to its high concern for filling other people’s needs. People who gravitate towards this style are compassionate, sympathetic, and tender. They are typically the peacekeepers of the family.

In terms of “give and take,” accommodators are constantly giving, and very rarely take. They may even have trouble accepting gifts or compliments because they are so used to dishing it out.

Effects of Avoidance tendencies

So what does it mean to be a compassionate, cuddly accommodator?

There are good effects, like building strong relationships. Typically accommodators become the person people go to for advice and to get what they need.

Because of their nurturing personalities, they are wonderful comforters and sounding boards for creativity. They are supportive of everyone in their life, except themselves obviously.

Too much accommodation has its negatives. Most notably, loss of respect. Since they rarely stand their ground, opposing parties view them as easy targets and steamroll them. As a result, the accommodator feels unheard and their self-esteem suffers.

Conflict ResolutionTo Use or Not to Use:

Just like last week, we’ll take a look at a few scenarios:

Scenario 1

You and your spouse have had a busy few weeks. You’ve decided that you want to spend the weekend with each other – do a few distractions.

Surprise! Your in-laws show up, uninvited and unannounced, to stay at your house for the weekend. You know they are important to your spouse, and that saying something oppositional will likely not end well. Despite wanting to get the heck out of dodge, honey in tow, you don’t make a fuss about it and instead suggest you move your alone time plans to the next weekend.

In this example, you’ve weighed your options and decided that peace with your spouse (and with your in-laws) is more important than getting your way.

You accommodate the needs of other people in the hopes that the issue doesn’t snowball into a large problem in the family.

Let’s keep going with this set up to see when not to accommodate, shall we?

Scenario 2

All weekend you have been run ragged entertaining your unexpected guests. It’s Sunday afternoon, and you’ve dropped a few hints about their leaving so that you and your spouse can get ready for another taxing week.

You can see that your girl is tired. And you’re exhausted as well. You have paid for every meal and catered to their needs since Friday evening.

Out of nowhere they ask to stay around through the end of the week. You want them to leave. You weren’t prepared to have them over in the first place.

Instead of putting your foot down, you bite your tongue. They stay around while you continue to care for their needs.

By letting them override you, you have given them all the power. They now know that you will never stand up for yourself and that they can always get their way. Yes, you’ve kept the peace, but at your own expense.

Strategies to Improve Your Fighting Technique

I can’t stress enough how important it is for our accommodating friends to determine their own needs. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. What are the 5 most important relationships to you? If a conflict arises with someone not on the list, remember that you don’t have to accommodate them.
  2. What needs do you need met? Even within your romantic relationships it’s important to know which needs you absolutely have to have fulfilled. Companionship? Support? Affirmation? Financial security? Figure it out! Then, feel free to say no!
  3. What issues are okay to let go?  Choose your battles. Maybe it’s choosing a movie or dinner spot, but minor things are totally fine to “keep the peace” over.

Extra Resources

I’ll admit, those steps sound easier than they are, especially if you don’t like conflict. You’ll most likely need extra help becoming more assertive.

No worries, though!

There are tons of free resource like this free course, that will walk you through the basics of assertive communication.

This website is dedicated to coaching you to be more assertive in every aspect of life!

One-on-one help is out there, too. If so, consider hiring a life coach in your area for a few weeks.

If your relationship has gone past the point of no return and you are divorcing, be sure to find an advocate that know your needs and will fight for them!

And, Finally,,,

Wrapping it all up, there is nothing wrong with being accommodating when it’s appropriate. As long as you don’t allow yourself to be a “doormat” it is a perfectly viable solution to keep the peace in your household.

If you aren’t an accommodator, consider taking a few notes from them. Remember that not everything has to be your way, especially the minor things!

You will be surprised at what giving a little will get you!

Next week we will visit the opposite side of the scale, Competing conflict styles.

Stay tuned!

 

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Conflict Resolution, Part 1 The Full Rundown on Avoidance and Fighting Like a Man

Conflict Resolution, Part 1 The Full Rundown on Avoidance and Fighting Like a Man

Conflict Resolution, Part 1:

The Full Rundown on Avoidance and Fighting Like a Man

Every relationship will experience quarrels. Each has their own way of dealing with confrontation whether or not you realize it.

Mediators and therapists have a name for it: Conflict Resolution style. In layman terms, fighting style. This series will talk about all sorts of aspects relating to how to get past conflicts.

Sorry Fight Club, we’re breaking the rules. We’re gonna talk all about it.

What Is a Fighting Style?

In this instance, your fighting style, which is subject to change, is how you react to confrontation. In terms of your marriage, it’s the way you respond to the words and actions of your spouse. There are tons of studies on personality types and conflict style, but it all boils down to your choice.

It’s the way you respond to the words and actions of your spouse. There are tons of studies on personality types and conflict style, but it all boils down to your choice.

You learn how to argue. Everyone has had one of those moments, mid-argument, where you say something and realize, “Oh, jeez, I’m turning into my parents.” That’s because on some level you developed behaviors based on what you were exposed to.

How Are These Categorized?

If you Google “conflict resolution style,” your top 10 (at least) results would be based on the research of Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann. They’ve spent 40 years honing their system and are the leading authority on the matter.

Here’s what their model looks like:

The TKI model measures one’s assertiveness against one’s cooperativeness. The result? Five categories of fighting styles. Just remember that you can use any one of those at any time, but most people develop into one main style that they use nearly all the time.

Today we are taking a deep dive into Avoidance!

Avoidance: The First of Five Styles

Where it lands on the scale:

The avoiding style is low in assertiveness and low in cooperativeness. Essentially they not only don’t care about your needs, but they also don’t care about their own. They will do anything to avoid a confrontation. Aptly named, don’t you think?

It’s widely considered a poor choice for settling a disagreement. However, there are some instances where it’s recommended.

Characteristics of Avoiders:

In general, avoiders tend to have low self-esteem. This isn’t always true, though. My husband, for instance, has very high self-esteem, but he will do anything (within reason) to keep the peace and veer away from a fight. It’s just who he is – most of the time anyway.

Most frequently they will assert that the topic is too unimportant or time-consuming to have a disagreement over. There are plenty of times that this may very well be the case.

Some other behaviors you may see in an avoider include using humor to make their partner “forget” the topic, changing the topic to something unrelated, or asking to have the discussion later. The goal of all of these is to bury it under the rug.

Effects of Avoidance tendencies:

Frequent avoidance will lead to one of you harboring resentful feelings. Either the avoider will resent their partner for “nagging” or “pushing buttons” when they try to have the same discussion again or the avoiders partner will resent them for ignoring the needs of the relationship.

Losing closeness to a partner is HUGE issue for avoiders. Ever have a friend that says “Let’s meet up soon!” but never follows through with it? Over time, you end feeling like that person doesn’t want to meet up and that they just don’t care about you. The same thing happens if you avoid a conflict for too long.

If your issues never get resolved, you can experience a build up. Herein lies the danger. The buildup of tension will lead to an explosion of hurt feelings and things you shouldn’t have said.

That said, there are some good effects of avoiding conflict. For instance, your relationship doesn’t sweat the small stuff. Remember how my husband leans towards avoiding? It’s sometimes the best thing for our relationship, because does it really matter how you put the dishes in the dishwasher? (For the record, YES, I think it does, but I’ll save you my rant)

The key is know when you should or shouldn’t avoid an issue.

To Use or Not to Use

Scenario 1

Let’s go ahead and use my dishwasher story- Your wife has a system for loading the dishwasher, that she claims results in cleaner dishes. You don’t care how the dishes go in there, because with the push of a button they all get cleaned. You offer to do the dishes after she’s had a long day, but she isn’t thrilled with that idea since you probably won’t load the dishes her way. After assuring her that they will all get clean, she begins to get frustrated with you. Your response is a classic avoider standby, “is it that big of a deal anyway?”

In an instance like this, it’s 100% okay to use avoiding tactics. Why? Because it’s not a topic that should make or break your relationship. Let’s look at when NOT to use avoiding behaviors.

Scenario 2

Once again, you come home to your wife being upset over how little time you have been setting aside for the family. You work hard during the week, so you want to play hard on the weekends. You went to happy hour on Friday afternoon and ended up making plans to go golfing on Saturday and Sunday, even though she had already asked to have a family weekend. When she hears that you’ve made plans that exclude her and your kids she is not happy. She begins to confront you, and again you respond with “what’s the big deal? Can we just talk about it later?”

What you have essentially done is communicate that her needs and emotions aren’t valid and aren’t important enough to be discussed. Remember those negative effects we talked about?

Strategies to Improve Your Fighting Technique

As I said before, the key is knowing when to avoid and when not to. When a tense subject arises it’s best to follow these step:

  1. Assess the situation- Is it important to the other person? Will avoiding it cause more issues later? If so then you need to have the fight.
  2. Plan your behavior carefully- figure out the best way to address this problem without aggravating the situation. This really does only take a few seconds to determine, so don’t think about putting off the argument.
  3. Act accordingly- follow through is the most important thing here. For example, scenario 2 could have been resolved quickly by hearing the wife’s concerns and addressing them with a thoughtful answer. Bonus points if he made a suggestion for a date night Saturday evening.

Extra Resources

If a problem has grown beyond something you feel you and your partner can sort out on your own, fear not! It may be worth it to meet with an expert. Mediators specialize in hearing both sides of an argument and suggesting action accordingly.

Therapists are a good option if you want to get down to the root cause of some of your biggest arguments. Even making the suggestion to get extra help is a step in the right direction!

Conclusion

To sum it all up, avoidance tactics have their place in a relationship but overall they tend to lead to bigger issues. A little effort will go a long way in terms of maintaining a harmonious relationship. If you or your partner is an avoider, there are several ways to improve your overall communication with displays of attentiveness and consideration.

Stay tune, Next week we’ll be looking at conflict resolution from the perspective of Accommodators!

Photo Credit: Split Second Sparring Capture via photopin (license)

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