The Good Men Project’s series How to Survive in the 21st Century delivers survival-mode insight on accepting life-changing circumstances and gives you the road map to your new normal.

In this 21st Century, life is different, moving at breakneck speed; it’s all we can do to keep up. As much as we try to plan the details of our lives sometimes events happen beyond our control, or we might realize we have no control. The visions others have for their lives and personal evolutions, and where they wish their journey to take them, their company, or their relationship, may not play nicely with the path we have carved to lead us to the future we desire. The Good Men Project’s 5-part series, How to Survive in the 21st Century, delivers survival-mode insight on how to accept your new normal, whether it be a devastating diagnosis, an unanticipated breakup, a bankruptcy, or other equally surprising occurrence, and then supplies the road map for getting on with your life.

Here you both are, hanging by the flimsiest thread, your heads ringing from the shocking venom each of you spewed at the other. In a heartbeat, you went from protecting each other to wanting to wound, to craving validation of caring so badly you couldn’t stop hacking away at the fibers holding you together. You were legendary reckless as a team.

Then…it was over.

The first fight is going to happen and it’s going to test you. The person you love most, and who loves you most, will become someone else—in concert with you—and you’ll vie to match each other turn for tragic turn, until it goes too far. It happens to the best of couples, but it doesn’t have to mean the end.

You can regain what you’ve lost. It will take time. But it is possible.

The following fighting rules will help you understand the anatomy of a fight, give you a hand in getting through the aftermath and shove you on to the shaky finish. So take a deep breath, then read to restore your hurting heart.

  1. Your partner is going to hurt you. Are you mature enough to handle it, to admit your wrongdoing? Accepting your mate’s human nature will help you deflect the hurtful words coming out of their mouth, so you will be able to hear their true intention. Try to define the message of what your SO is attempting to get across. Feelings are frequent offenders at misconstruing communication. Emotional people are awful communicators and are occasionally guilty of making long-term decisions based on short-term feelings.
  1.  Can you let them finish their sentence? I am a horrid listener sometimes. I get irrationally worried about not being acknowledged and I assume my feelings aren’t important, so I fight with the habit of repeatedly begging for recognition. Trust PTSD, we could call it. Ancient pain, tattooed and permanent, hidden from light, remains in me. I can be a nightmare. The times my SO and I have tried to understand the other’s point-of-view are the times we have progressed.
  1. Forgive each other’s sins. Forgiving may be a more meaningful act than apologizing because it eases your partner’s emotions and anxiety over the perception of the relationship changing. Whether that’s true, or not, forgiving restores your promise to your spouse. It is gentle in the face of harsh words, as if to say: you are still okay to me. Still accepted. I believe you mean to try harder, I believe you wouldn’t hurt me with malice. You’re going to make mistakes and I am prepared. I remain safe with you. Making you feel better right now takes precedence over my injuries.
  1. Shut up. As you are speaking. Cut off your own sentence. Walk out of the room while jabbering exaggerated nonsense. If you are horrified you can’t stop screaming such destructive condemnation, tune into that gut feeling and zip it. Your partner might think this quick clamp is odd, but refusing to go any further spares them more pain. Your silence communicates a deep missive. Never forget its power.
  1. Go easy as you venture forward on your splintered foundation. It’s a bruised silence you’ll both live in for the next couple of days where the memories are fresh and stinging, but you must rise above it. Banish those memories from your thoughts. The fight is over. Begin again with civility and basic human respect. You love this person enough to entwine lives after all, so be compassionate and continue to do the norm. Cook dinner, dish up a plate for your darling, clean the carpet of your home the two of you maintain. Routine is reassuring. Exist in conflict-free partnership.
  1. Take a risk. You want to run, to push, to be alone. But you don’t. You’re scared and sad and wish everything that transpired could be unraveled. How did you get to this rotten, scary back alley of love reeking of the garbage of resentment and betrayal, teeming with sad surprise? You hate it here. Here’s your escape hatch. Lay your hand on your SO’s. Walk toward them for a hug. Respond sympathetically. Let your tone of voice and your defenses drop, as you do, they will follow.
  1. Choose your battles. Return to the main issue and work on it. Stop throwing in every rehashed fight. If you have forgiven the past, that’s where it has to stay. In the past. Don’t lump it into the topic of the moment. Make an oath neither of you is allowed to bring up forgiven transgressions.
  1. Hope. You can influence the outcome. Your fight finale depends on you both, but as one of a pair, don’t demean your pull. How much metaphorical blood do you want to spill on your grappling ground? Do  you want to stop the insanity and veer into hope? Let your loved one know. It doesn’t matter who said what, let’s agree to jump this sinking ship of a fight, Honey. Start over if you can’t find a way to revert back to the last rational point.
  1. Stop blaming each other. You are responsible for you. No one makes you feel or do anything.
  1. Push past fear compelling you to misrepresent yourself. What are your stakes? Abandonment? Misunderstanding? Having your feelings trampled?. Get to the core. What do you really want to say? I was afraid you were going to leave and I lashed out. I panicked when I thought you’d stopped loving me. Many times fears are unfounded, and when confronted head-on, dissipate. Feelings aren’t facts. Fear usually isn’t fact-based either.
  1. Hate is love. When you’re hollering at each other, it means you both care about your relationship. Amid the torrent of acid words, even if you’re doing a bad job disagreeing, you’re still trying because you still want to be there. Disinterest is the opposite of love. Hate is love’s fiery arm candy.
  1. When your SO cries, try embracing them. Better known as a wall coming down, this is your partner getting vulnerable and yearning for comfort only you can give.
  1. In the midst of mutual vitriol, remind your SO you love them.
  1. Plan for your next fight by learning from your first. Make a goal together to improve your communication. Examine the fails. Revise rules if you need to. Represent only yourself when speaking. Try statements like, “I feel embarrassed because…”, or “I feel hurt because…” Speak about what you have control of…you. No name calling and no reaching into your partner’s soul to claw out their worst insecurities to use as weapons. Remain unemotional. Aim to discuss, not fight. Regard your relationship objectively. Pass a talking stick back and forth. It can even be a bottle of cleaner if you two are going at it in the kitchen.
  1. Forgive yourself. Always. Honor your own frailties. Your misjudgment. Determine to do better. Be kind to yourself as you practice your new lessons.

After you print this list out and put it on the fridge, reach for your love and enfold your dual protection around your relationship. It’s going to be okay. In the light of the rosy morning, you woke up together, or recommitted through a phone call or text. You gingerly worked your way back to your coupledom, picking through the wreckage. You survived.

Original article appeared at The Good Men ProjectReprinted with permission.

Photo: eBomb716/Flickr


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