Sometimes the worst thing about having a fight with the person you’re dating is not that you’re fighting, or even what you’re fighting about; it’s about not understanding each other’s fighting style. Because whenever we fight, we go into our lizard brain default mode and before we know it we’re on autopilot going off on how he’s going to overcook the rice again and now he’s doing that annoying sympathy seeking thing. Fine! I’ll never cook rice again! You’ll be the only one ever allowed to cook rice since you’re the expert at it. How’s that? And … we’re off!
Geez, how did you end up here when all you really wanted to tell him was that your grandma taught you a special rice cooking trick that he might like to try? No matter how naturally compatible you are when you’re getting along, chances are, especially in the early days of your love, you’ll have to work at being compatible in the fighting department. That’s the tricky part — identifying your S.O.’s fighting style and learning to hear what he’s really saying about the rice. Below, some common fighting styles and some tips for dealing with them.
1. The Silent But Deadly. The silent but deadly fighter is exactly like the fart that shares its name. He makes not a peep but has the power to contaminate the entire room with his silent anger. This is the stench of your partner shutting down and disconnecting from his own emotions or trying to sort through and label his own feelings. When your S.O. is like this it’s best to leave him alone in his contaminated room and resume the fight once the smell has dissipated. Or he has had the appropriate amount of time to gather his thoughts.
2. The Preemptive Apologizer. Instead of engaging in the fight, the preemptive apologizer plays the sympathy-seeking card by showering you with I’m sorrys. I’m sorry for overcooking your rice. I’m the worst person in the world and I’m sorry for existing. It’s important not to be manipulated by his apology because it’s not really an apology; it’s a deflection. He wants the fight to disappear. Once everyone has calmed down and the rice has been spooned into the garbage, talk directly and firmly to the apologizer, telling him that you love him unconditionally but will not stand for him ignoring your cooking tips because it makes you feel unimportant.
3. The Great Defender. At the slightest hint of a fight, the great defender is whipping out his legal pad and preparing his case for the jury. You want to talk about the rice, but he is going to remind you of every time you overcooked something and how he didn’t get mad at you. He is going to make his case airtight to the point where you’ll be considering hiring your own counsel. It’s especially important that you remind the great defender that he is safe with you and you’re not looking to persecute him. Jump straight to the part where you’re vulnerable so that he doesn’t feel threatened and tell him about how cooking rice is your way of paying tribute to your grandma and it would make you happy if he was a part of that.
4. The Blamer. No matter what you’re fighting about — rice or whether or not to move in together — the blamer will find some way to make everything your fault. It’s your fault because you put too much water in the pot! Your fault because you wanted curry for dinner! The worst thing you can do to a blamer is go on the defensive. If he says you put too much water in the pot, admit calmly that maybe you did but you’d rather focus on solutions for cooking rice together in the future.
5. The Rationalizer. This guy loves to turn feelings into thoughts to the point of it being maddening. You’ll be crying in your bowl of overcooked rice and he’ll be asking you over and over again to explain why you’re crying. He’ll recount the entire evening in a logical manner trying to figure out where you went wrong. What you’ll need to do is explain your feelings to this guy in a way that makes sense to him without voiding the fight all emotion. This is not about the rice, this is about how he falls apart at perceived criticism and how you can give him feedback in the future without making him feel criticized. BOOM.
6. The Conflict Avoider. This person hates conflict so much that he’ll say literally whatever it takes to avoid it. This may include agreeing with you even if he doesn’t really agree with you. You’re so right sweetie, I overcooked the rice. Let me make you another batch. This may only serve to drive you wild with annoyance and you may continue prodding him for how he really feels. For the extremely conflict averse, try not to raise your voice or communicate signs of anger with your body language. Tell him that you want him to share his real feelings even if they differ from yours and that you’ll still love him and you’re capable of talking things over without getting mad.
7. The Nihilist. You might be fighting about rice, but when arguing with the nihilist, the future of your relationship is always on the line. At the slightest sign of trouble, he wants to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’m not talking about throwing away the rice. He’s gonna threaten you with ending your relationship. OVER RICE. Not really, but this is his play. The nihilist needs to know that you’re not taking his threats seriously. Whether you do that with laughter and jokes or by ignoring him, let him know that he’s going to have to do better than that if he wants to resolve an argument with you and you’ll speak with him when he’s done threatening you.
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