Fighting in Public

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You are at the grocery store line up and the couple in front of you is fighting. Not loudly, yet, but you can tell by the body language and the tone of voice that it is going to escalate quickly. What do you do? Nothing is worse then listening to other people’s fighting – it is embarrassing for everyone involved but the line ups are long in the packed grocery store and you need to get home to relieve the baby sitter.

Instead of running away or trying to hide your embarrassment, try to learn from it to improve your own relationship.

Couples that fight in public have no right to privacy. They are venting their dirty laundry in public and in many cases, one of them will pick the public spot because they know it will put a limit on how much the fight can escalate. We have all heard about the idea of breaking up with someone in a restaurant so they do not cause a ‘scene’? Public fighting is often treated the same way and if it bothered the couple to be overheard, they would agree to continue the discussion at home.

So how do you take their situation and apply it to your relationship? First off, public fighting shows a lack of self-respect, respect for their partner and what little value they put on their relationship. For example, think about where you see people fighting in public. It is usually big cities where anonymity is guaranteed whereas small town folks fight behind their own closed doors. The big city couple knows that part of living in close quarters with thousands of other people means that no one will recognize them, no one will gossip and that part of the unwritten rules of densely packed society is ‘mind your own business’. Picture the small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business – there are no couples fighting in public because no one wants to be the center of the gossip circle. Aretha had it right:

‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  

Find out what it means to me!’

Public fighting is a cheat. Women often get the upper hand in the argument because the man cannot stand up for himself without looking abusive. It is an odd society we live in that the women can tear the man down in public and all that happens is the man garners the sympathy of everyone within earshot. Turn the tables, however, and the man is a cad and a heel and without much provocation, someone will call the cops on him. Women are often the instigator of the fight because they know they will be able to vent their argument without the man arguing back.

At Some Point You Will Disagree

Fighting is a normal part of any relationship and holding in or bottling up feelings is hard on both your marriage and your health. Resentment breeds and when the couple does fight, all the bottled up feelings of hurt and pain come out at once. Worse, they never come out and the couple grows apart, letting the relationship die a slow death.

In a seventeen year study conducted by the University of Michigan School of Public Health showed that couples that hold in their emotions die twice as early as couples that express their feelings. Out of 192 couples that were classed in one of three groups – those that both parties expressed their feelings, those that one side repressed their feelings and one group where both parties bottled up their emotions. Of the twenty-six couples were both parties suppressed their feelings, there were thirteen deaths. Of the remaining 166 couples, there were only forty-one deaths. So although it is important to tell your partner how you are feeling, choosing a private place to begin the discussion is essential.

Fighting in public is dirty fighting, along with name-calling, bringing up every hurt the other person ever caused or bringing in friends or family in the ‘all our friends think…’ tactic. It is unhealthy and a sign the relationship is in serious trouble.

Instead of airing your dirty laundry, take a ‘time out’ and return to it at home. A time out will give you both a chance to calm down and think about what it is the two of you are fighting about. If the relationship is worth salvaging, you work it through without letting it escalate. Try putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and see the fight from both sides. The number one thing couples fight about is money and raising children so try to think of compromises or a plan that addresses both your needs while still doing what is best for your finances or kids. Work out a way to sit down with together and make a plan for the future so that the fight will not happen again.

So watch the couple in front of you in the grocery store line-up and learn from their behavior. Is the couple tearing each other down? Being disrespectful? Is there a way they could approach the problem without the name-calling or hurtful remarks?  Do you ever want your relationship to look like this one? No? Then take steps to make sure it never does and apply what you have learned by watching that couple to your own relationship.

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