How to fight the right way with your significant other
Couple ignoring one another in bed. Tom Grill, Corbis
The most interesting part of a love story is always the chase. There’s a whole movie genre dedicated to the trials people undergo to snag “The One.” But once a relationship gets into full swing, it can go from romantic comedy to telenovela pretty quickly if neither party has the proper emotional maturity.
Ask anyone, from your therapist to your abuela, how to have an enduring relationship and most will say the key is communication. Latinas often find themselves in a holding pattern in this area, battling the opposing archetypes of the placating matriarch, who quells her opinion to keep the peace and the impassioned firecracker who loves to break up to make up.
For many Latinas there are two ways to communicate with a spouse in a conflict: the ubiquitous silent treatment and full on verbal war.
“Latinas hold things in ... Until they burst! We curse out and shout at our partners, sometimes even hurling dishes because we've been biting our tongues for way too long,” says Sujeiry Gonzalez, relationship advice columnist and author of “Love Trips: A Collection of Relationship Stumbles.”
But a couple can face most of what life dishes out when they are working from the same play book and develop strategies to get through to each other when the waters are troubled. Here are a few tips to help you fight fair and (hopefully) less frequently.
1. What are you really mad about?
Women often walk around (or yell around) the real topic when they are arguing, focusing on the superficial or allowing the tone of a debate, sarcasm or irritation to escalate a simple disagreement into a verbal brawl.
“The first tip I always give women is to know how they feel. Having a discussion when you're unsure about what you're feeling and why is futile. So tap into your emotions before you have a conversation,” says Sujeiry.
2. Men are from “Marte.” Accept it.
If you expect a man to have a soul-cleansing, life-changing dialogue with you on a regular basis, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Steven Stosny, an expert on male aggression and co-author of “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It” asserts that while talking about their feelings soothes women, men become physically uncomfortable.
The book asserts that at the heart of a woman’s desire to verbally communicate her concerns is her anxiety and fear. On the other hand, a man’s silence stems from his humiliation at not being able to please her. So the more a woman tries to “talk it out,” the more a man retreats into himself.
The key, the book postulates, is to improve the non-verbal communication between you and your partner and focus on your connection. If you really want to have a deep conversation about your feelings, call your best friend.
3. Skip the Blame Game
What’s that saying? It takes two to tango? Unless you have made a horrible mistake in your selection of a mate, the problems in the relationship are the product of both parties.
“Put down your ammunition! Instead of attacking your partner by pointing out how horrible he is or what he needs to work on, note what you need to work on and how you can be more responsible in your relationship. We all have growing to do,” says Sujeiry.
4. Lower the volume
As much fun as it can be to channel your inner “Gata Salvaje,” you are not Marlene Favela. Losing your composure will not help you win an argument and will often cloud the message. Take a break when things get too heated. Will you cherish having the last word when it was at the end of a rant about how you really feel about his mama?
Before you say something you know you will have to apologize for, Sujeiry suggests you pause.
“Take a deep breath. Count to ten. Do whatever you must to release any nasty emotions. And most importantly, come from a place of love,” she says.
* * Amy Reyes is the Assistant Editor of Miami.com, the Miami Herald's online guide to Miami nightlife, entertainment, events and restaurants. A Michigan native, she lived two years in the Dominican Republic where she found love and her second home. She lives in Miami with her husband and two children.