The best way to fightA game of pingpong is simple enough - one ball bouncing back and forth between two paddles. But imagine throwing another ball in the mix. Or two. Or three.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
A game of pingpong is simple enough - one ball bouncing back and forth between two paddles.
But imagine throwing another ball in the mix. Or two. Or three.
Kim Baldwin, a psychologist at Fairview Red Wing Medical Center, said that's one of the biggest problems people have when they're arguing. Rather than discussing just one topic at a time, other topics get brought up and suddenly there are too many balls in the air for just two pingpong players.
"The No. 1 mistake I see in arguments is people will weave multiple arguments together," she said.
Now, imagine while those three or four pingpong balls continue soaring back and forth, the players are getting tired or have been drinking. The game gets chaotic and paddles are swinging every which way because focus is lost. A ball might even fly at someone's face, turning that simple game of pingpong into something much more complicated.
Choosing the wrong time to fight - such as when people are exhausted or intoxicated - is another mistake Baldwin sees in conjunction with tackling too many issues at once.
"Capture all those other topics in writing and say, we will come to these in the future," Baldwin recommended. "What you'll see by writing it is the rhythm of the problems. You'll see how frequently they happen."
The psychologist said some of the healthiest couples she sees are ones who keep an anger journal and write down everything that makes them upset. Then, they block off 45 minutes a week - 22 1/2 minutes allotted apiece - and each person chooses one topic from their journal to discuss.
"If you do the budgeted time, the advantage of that is profound," Baldwin said. "You can plug it into your life when you're both in a pleasant mood."
Another advantage to the scheduled discussion is that it forces conversation. People who generally like to walk away from conflict, shut down and not talk about problems are asked to engage for those 45 minutes.
Keeping an anger journal can also be beneficial when looking at what causes most of a couple's fights. For example, if two people are continually arguing over pretty insignificant issues, Baldwin said, they just need to give in and let go.
"If you quantify that over the last month we've argued 18 times over how to load the dishwasher, that problem doesn't deserve that much energy," she explained.
While it's important not to get worked up over the little issues, Baldwin said fighting in general is not bad for a relationship as long as it's handled properly.
Things like name-calling, swearing, raising your voice or using intimidation only cause more damage and should always be avoided. In a perfect world, Baldwin said, people would have a referee to see that those tactics are never brought up in arguments or that consequences would be in place if they ever were.
"Like in football - when they make a mistake, not only do they stop the game, but they lose ground. They get punished," Baldwin explained.
She recommends people simply halt the discussion if name-calling and cursing enter the argument, and return to it when they're both calm.
The closest most people can get to having a referee is seeing a psychologist such as herself. Though some people feel there's a negative connotation that goes along with receiving relationship advice, Baldwin said it's actually a positive step to take.
"They have the ability to recognize, we're in a bit of trouble here," she said.
The professional help isn't intended to create relationships that are free of any conflict, but rather to teach people fair fighting methods that can be used to better manage their arguments.
"We're not meant to not fight," Baldwin said. "It's that we fight effectively (that matters)."