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Relationships - Win the Battle or Win the War?

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By: Dustin Kebre, M.A.; LMFT EMDR

I can imagine that associating relationships to a battle or a war could be disturbing. I wonder how many of you often feel this way? After the honeymoon stage has subsided, after the vows have been made, after the mortgage and the kids come it is sometimes really difficult not to experience a wide array of disturbing feelings associated to the behavior of your partner. We are all creatures of habit and our personalities are formed into specific beliefs and ways of handling life. Some of those patterns are of course maladaptive and we know this, but others have worked decently well for us throughout our life.

To be told that those ways are either wrong, inappropriate, dumb etc…. is a undermining feeling that really deflates your connection to your partner and effects your overall enjoyment of life as a whole. Furthermore, we start to develop our own egocentricity related to our own beliefs and start doing the same exact thing. Eventually many of our relationships become a constant game of Risk! The saddest part of this whole process is that in our minds we believe we are trying to help things, but we are really destroying the love and connection in our relationships.

Now there are different levels of severity with the concept and patterns I just laid out which could be related to deeper psychological issues which need to be worked through in therapy. The question is how do we know when a battle is worth fighting or do we let that go for the sake of the relationship on a greater whole? To really get to the nitty gritty on answering this question may take longer than just reading this blog and may require a one to walked down the road of process not in a one stop solution.

The first step in answering this question is to start to look at ourselves and realize that we necessarily do not know more than anyone else. This is hard for the ego to accept that we don’t always know best. Especially for the Narcissistic ones out there; however, when we accept that we all have some level of expertise. It benefits us to realize that even though we may do something a certain way there may be other solutions that get us to the same answer. We all experienced this in Math class where we got marked down for not showing our work.

Secondly we have to be able to evaluate how important addressing an opinion, thought, or behavior that rubs us the wrong way. If we determine that this thing that is negatively effecting us is high on this importance scale we may choose to say something to our partner, but if we realize it is low it may not be worth bringing up at all and let it go. This is where the rigid individuals will start to have trouble.

Thirdly, how you address issues in your life with your partner is so important! If you are reacting (which is different than responding) in a moment it is highly likely you may at times be emulating D-day or the scene in “A Few Good Men” when Tom Cruise attempts to get the truth from Jack Nicholson. We need to be aware of certain aspects when communicating critical issues to our partners. We need to take into account timing, tone and whether our partner is interested in hearing what we have to say. Suggesting at the end of the day to sit down with your partner in a calm manner may go over better than reacting in the moment and turning your interactions with your better half like a battle.

These are opportunities to connect and not combat. Besides at the end of the day we all want to win the war and the winning the war looks like being happy and connected.

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