Relationship conflicts come in all sorts of flavors.
There’s the power struggle, the fight over decision rights, or the argument about money.
There’s the classic fairness fight, the dispute over the exact 50/50 balance of housework, child care, and the thousand or so other random logistics of modern life.
But there’s also a subtler, more surreptitious, form of conflict. We call it the I-miss-you fight.
We experienced it just last week. Kaley was away all week for an international business trip. So, for most of the week, we were just too busy (and too exhausted) to have a real conversation.
When we finally did, four days later, the I-miss-you fight started to surface. It was triggered, as these fights always are, by something utterly pointless: a dispute over which person's cell phone reception was causing the poor connection quality (“I have all my bars, do you?!”) as well as an insignificant misunderstanding surrounding a banking transaction email.
Were we actually fighting over the strength of our 5G cell signal?
No. We were in conflict because, deep down, we wanted something deeper. We wanted to connect. We missed each other.
How can you identify the I-miss-you fight and, more important, how can you dissolve it in real time?
This is a hallmark quality of the I-miss-you fight. This conflict, after all, is never over something that actually matters, whether to refinance your mortgage, where to send your kid to school, or parenting philosophy.
No, the telltale sign of the I-miss-you fight is that it’s triggered by something totally absurd and pointless.
So the next time you find yourself arguing about the merits of the metric versus imperial measurement system or whether it’s appropriate to use your thumb as a food shovel to assist your fork or whether the knives should face up or down in the silverware compartment of the dishwasher, notice.
Become aware of the fact that you may have just entered the terrain of the I-miss-you fight.
You don’t have to read the entire canon of marriage therapy books to know how to get out of this fight quickly. Most of the time, all you have to do is name it for yourself and for your partner.
It can be as simple as saying, “I can feel the part of me that wants to fight you and it’s because I just miss you.”
Notice also that this doesn’t require international travel. It might just be that you haven’t had time for a “real” conversation in a few days because you’ve had conflicting business or kid events.
It’s unnerving to feel disconnected from your partner. But it’s even more unnerving to feel disconnected and uncertain about when you will have time to get back in sync with each other.
So sometimes, just coming up with a plan makes all the difference. Maybe you can’t take a walk or sit outside together when this conflict arises.
But you can make a plan. Maybe you'll make time after the kids go to bed or during that gap in your workday tomorrow or during an upcoming date night.
Simply having a plan takes away the uncertainty, dissolving most of the intensity of the I-miss-you fight because you know you won't be missing each other forever.
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