Last week I shared the things that I feel lead to a fight. All of us have seen at least one of those things lead to conflict or a fight in one of our relationships. We have seen minor things escalate into something that should have never been; things that could not be taken back or recovered. Sometimes all that is left behind is hurt and pain that remains for days, weeks or even years that we cannot seem to heal.

What if we could recognize where something was headed and stop it before it became a fight or a major conflict? I believe that if we know how things escalate and evolve, it will help us identify what is happening and hopefully help us avoid some of the pain or frustration that is experienced. Here is what I call the anatomy of a fight.

Disappointment or Misunderstanding
Usually everything starts with a misunderstanding or a disappointment. Something does not happen the way we expected it to. We take something one way when it was meant another way. The right thing is said at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Suddenly, we have a misunderstanding or we are disappointed. Almost every conflict in our marriage could be avoided if we could correct it at this stage. If we could overlook a disappointment or if we could clarify a misunderstanding we would not proceed to the next stage or end up in a major conflict. Most of this is dependent upon us to take the necessary steps to deal with it immediately. The longer we wait, the more likely it will escalate.

Tension
You know what I mean. As they say, “you can cut it with a knife”. Nothing is said at this point, it is all attitude. As a matter of fact at this point very little is said. Tension is that way. This is often the place where one person is attempting to get the other person to recognize there is a problem. Though it has gone a little farther than a disappointment or misunderstanding, it is still solvable and certainly an avoidable major conflict. This requires us to be self-aware of our own actions and considerate of the other person involved and their feelings. Unresolved tension will only grow until the silence is gone and the words are unleashed.

Unnecessary Words or Actions
Up until this point there has been the opportunity to move on and avoid a fight. Once this place is reached, a major conflict is close at hand. Once the silence of tension is broken, there is rarely any turning back. We have usually rehearsed and recited the incident, and possibly a few others, in our mind while the tension has been building. Often there is a trigger that pushes us over the edge and once that first word is breached, we can’t seem to help ourselves. Not just any words; they are usually hurtful and unnecessary words. We may even act out in ways that raise the conflict to a higher level. This is usually met with more of the same from the other side. It is at this point if we do not become aware of what is happening, long term damage can be done by something we say or do.

Anger
You might be thinking when you read this one word that you were angry well before now. I am not talking about being angry. You can be angry and get over it. However, when we allow the emotion of anger to settle in our hearts toward another person, it is not resolved easily. Usually this is the place that over time causes people to walk away from relationships. They no longer care what you say or do to work towards reconciliation – they are just over it. Anger is so very dangerous. It is one of the few things listed in the Bible that gives a foothold, or a place, to the devil in our life. It is not just dangerous for the relationship or for the other person, it is dangerous to us. Anger can destroy us before we even know it. Almost every situation is repairable, but at this stage, it will require work.

Fights are not uncommon. We all have disputes and conflict from time to time. A little awareness though can make that a little bit easier to manage and possibly even avoid. There is nothing like looking back after a conflict and thinking how much time and energy was wasted by simply failing to clarify misunderstandings or overlook a disappointment.

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