About the Author

Honey's main interests are online dating, long distance dating, and long term relationships. She met her boyfriend on MySpace and they have been exclusive since their first date over three years ago. Currently they live in Tempe, Arizona. Honey graduated with her PhD in Composition and Rhetoric in May 2009. You can contact Honey via email here or online here.

Revelations Part III: What’s Your Fighting Style?

This is Part III of a series. You can read Part I here and Part II here.

Despite (or perhaps because) this is the revelation that I had first and feel is most important, it is the last (and hardest) to write. I started off by calling the post “what I could do differently,” and then I tried to come up with a name that had something to do with compromise, but nothing was working and I just couldn’t get started.

Then I had a conversation with Jake this morning before leaving for work that cleared things up for me. Despite not being especially philosophical, he is definitely a logical thinker because of his profession :-) Here’s what I realized:

There’s a lot of focus out there on people’s so-called “love styles.” In case you haven’t heard of this, you can read about it here, here, here, or here (For starters. There are similar quizzes everywhere). The styles are physical touch, quality time, gifts, words of affirmation, and acts of service. However, each and every “love style” is more than that – it is also a preferred communication style, which means it’s also your fighting style. And it’s just as important to know how to communicate when your relationship is under stress as it is when everything’s great (maybe more so).

When Jake and I started dating, our first disagreement (I’m not remembering what it was about at the moment) led us to exchange a set of lengthy e-mails about our preferred method for dealing with disagreements. Part of the reason this was done over email (in case

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you think that’s totally strange!) is that I consider myself a writer, not a speaker. I am really uncomfortable speaking extemporaneously on topics that I think are extremely important – I need time to consider my words carefully, to edit and revise, and to send a final product that I think is a true representation of what I think and how I feel. Most of my truest communication in our relationship has occurred over e-mail.

Come to think of it, Lance’s and my friendship also really didn’t deepen until we were exchanging e-mails after I moved to Arizona. I was an avid diarist when younger and (before I basically abandoned it to blog here) had hundreds of entries in my MySpace blog, writing almost daily. Jake, on the other hand, prefers to have discussions in person. The agreement that we reached at the time was that we’d talk things over, I’d mull over what was said, and then we’d have another talk. That way, everyone got to express themselves in the way that was most comfortable for them.

Now that we’ve been together for over three years, though, and this most recent stress in our relationship made me realize that (like many things) we are perhaps not always consciously aware of what we need and why. Jake’s love style, for example, is quality time. When we’re angry or upset with each other, then, he needs time completely alone in order to think things through, process his emotions, and move on from the triggering incident. My love style, on the other hand, is physical touch. This means that when I’m angry or upset, I need a hug.

Of the few major upsets we’ve had in our relationship, I would have to say that every one of them has been prolonged by the fact that we essentially need completely opposite responses when we’re frustrated. This is especially true since neither of us ever thought about it in that way before, and so didn’t know what to ask for. That is, when we exchanged the original e-mails after our first disagreement, we did so with the purpose of providing the other person with the type of information that we needed to know to minimize fallout (since once you are upset, you’re hardly feeling like explaining rationally to the other person what you need them to d0). This new information that has come to light, however, illustrates that our understanding of each others’ communication styles was incomplete.

Now that we know this, we also know that in the future, we have to be especially conscious of what the other needs – even if it feels to each of us like the absolutely wrong thing to do, and even if it makes us uncomfortable and/or anxious to go against our own instincts.

Jake’s take on the whole thing?

“Is it too late to change my love style to gifts?”

What’s your fighting style? Leave a comment below, and then check out these other fine posts:

  • http://www.worklovelife.com Holly Hoffman

    When I was in therapy, my therapist made me read a book called “Why Marriages Succeed (or Fail).” It was an awesome book because for one, no one had ever studied successful marriages before this study, only failed ones.

    At any rate, the main tenet of the book is that you need to have the same “fighting” style, as you call it. There are basically 3 types: avoidant (we agree to disagree), passionate (we yell our way to agreement), and collaborative (we discuss & come to a consensus).

    A collaborative will want to talk it out, which won’t work very well with an avoidant. A passionate and an avoidant are really not going to get along. It’s not to say that if you and your S.O. can’t work if you’re different styles, but like you said, need to work to understand each other.

    I’m lucky enough to be with another collaborative for the first time in my romantic life. It’s easier when problems arise than it has been in the past. I have an aunt & an uncle who are passionates… it’s interesting to watch how that works for them, but it does.
    .-= Holly Hoffman´s last blog …Your touted “workaholism” isn’t a badge of honor =-.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    This is interesting, Holly.

    Jake and I both are invested in discussion and consensus, but the preferred timing and medium of the conversation are different for each of us. So we still have to work at it!
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Revelations Part III: What’s Your Fighting Style? =-.

  • http://casualencounters.com/blog/ Janak

    Firstly, awesome that you managed to drop a word like “extemporaneously” in a post.

    Secondly, I think my “fighting style” has been inspired by my father’s. On the rare occasions he gets angry he tends to blurt out curt, cutting statements directed at the target of his anger. I often respond the same way when I’m faced with a prolonged verbal attack or a relentless display of negativity or criticism (usually after quite a few minutes of biting my tongue first), and I usually regret it later. I associate this reaction with “losing my temper”.

    However, if I’m presented with tears and despondency, I usually respond with a lot more compassion.

    I guess the challenge for me is to short-circuit my suboptimal response and find a way of dealing with confrontation/conflict that’s more constructive.
    .-= Janak´s last blog …A Flowchart to Determing if You’re Going to Have Sex on this Date =-.

  • http://simonandcole.com Simon

    I just read your last ten posts or so, since I’ve been out of the blogging world pretty much completely of late. I don’t know what it is about reading someone’s blog that is so damn intriguing, but I just love it. Yours in particular really makes me feel three things specifically:
    1. the best way to understand relationships and friendships and general communication is to read about and talk to people who have experienced REAL FUCKING EVENTS. all this stuff we watch on tv is great and entertaining, and we definitely need it. but blogging is like watching a tv show that you don’t have to watch on tv……and you really get attached to the characters, because you know that they’re real people. it’s tantalizing.
    2. you and jake make me want to scream sometimes because of how free flowing things are. and yet, i know that you struggle constantly. this in turn makes me believe that finding a successful partner is actually the hardest test we’re faced with. that’s why blogging in the relationship world is so difficult yet fun.
    3. as a very social person who has lots of friends but not lots of real close ones, it’s hard not to want to meet you and all the characters in your life, however ancillary.

    .-= Simon´s last blog …Missing Someone by Simon =-.

  • http://demetershouse.wordpress.com demetershouse

    Like you, I too consider myself a writer, not a speaker. I’m awesome at speaking extemporaneously in my professional world, but when it comes to my personal world, I need time to think, write, revise. If I speak in the moment I almost always feel, an hour or a day later, that it really wasn’t what I meant to say at all . . . and I have to go back to the person to revise it.
    .-= demetershouse´s last blog …How sad =-.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    @ Janak, when I was in 6th or 7th grade I won second prize in a countywide “extemporaneous essay contest” on the Bill of Rights. Jake found it in a box of my stuff one day, and he was like, “what’s extemporaneous?” When I explained, he said, “You knew enough about the Bill of Rights in SEVENTH GRADE to write that!?!”

    It’s a challenge to not go by your own instincts, but can be a worthy endeavor, I think.

    @ Simon, glad you’re back around! Yes, it’s super hard to find a partner right for you, and as I’ve discovered, that doesn’t even mean all the hard stuff is over. I’ve heard it said that a good relationship makes your joy twofold and your sorrow only half, but in my experience it can be difficult to help someone with their daily frustrations, even (perhaps especially) if there’s nothing you can really do to make things better for them.

    @ demeter – I agree! And it’s a lot harder to revise a person’s impression than it is to revise an e-mail :-)
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Revelations Part III: What’s Your Fighting Style? =-.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Lance

    That’s very interesting about the 5 love styles. I was alluding to that in my recent posts on the volatility of early dating and I even used the term love style! I express love with physical touch and I need to receive love with affirmations. I have trained myself to give love also with affirmations and quality time, in that order of preference and skill level.

    I strongly believe the love styles have a drastic affect on attraction and the early dating stages, to the point where it will make or break you. My idea is that you want to figure out the other person’s love style asap in order to be able to be able to attract and communicate properly. Obviously, you’ll want to know your own style as well.
    .-= Lance´s last blog …Seducing A Sagittarius Is A Big Pain In My Ass =-.

  • http://20-forty.com/ lisaq

    Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I learned from the 5 Love Languages is being aware of your partner’s language can improve relationships and get them back on track. Though I’m not in a relationship currently, I’ve noticed that I try to take love languages into account in my relationships with friends and family and that it has, indeed, improved all of my relationships. Sometimes being aware is the most important first step.
    .-= lisaq´s last blog …Screw Cupid: The Sassy Girl’s Guide to Picking Up Hot Guys =-.

  • gil martinelli

    Are you out of your mind. Your bf is a drunk and a cheater. If you think you’ll change him, forget it. If you think he’ll get better, forget it. As I’ve always said losers derseve losers. Good luck. You’ll need it!

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    Thanks for the comment, gil. I agree completely – you can’t change someone. They have to change themselves!
    .-= Honey´s last blog …One Super Important Thing I Learned From Dating Three Chicks At Once =-.