Watching dogs interact can teach you a lot about human behavior, relationship communication, and how to make a relationship last. This Thanksgiving my family convened and my Grandparent’s house for a few days. My new dog, an energetic and sweet 10-month-old mutt named Laika, got to meet the Grandparent’s 12 year-old fox terrier, Molly. Needless to say, chaos ensued.
At the same time, in between all the barking it was fascinating to watch the two dogs work our their relationship. They got along relatively well when there was nothing much going on. Then, as soon as food or human attention came into the mix, the teeth came out. Each doggy wanted a piece of the pie (literally). Molly the terrier was clearly an alpha female and was born this way. She would preemptively nip at Laika whenever she felt her status or access to the preferred good was threatened. Laika wouldn’t really engage in the fight, but neither would she run away yelping. She would just stay put until the yapping, snarling Molly tired herself out and/or got what she wanted.
Molly and Laika were having major relationship communication problems that they solved the dog way: barking, biting, snarling. Luckily for us humans, we can use words to make ourselves better understood. At the same time, I saw many of the same problems between the dogs between some human relationships during the Holiday. We all have instinctive personal styles of conflict resolution, and often times they lead to confrontations that leave with both spouses feeling rotten.
My Thanksgiving experience reminded me of one of my favorite PO2 produced videos about Conflict Resolution. Check out the clip below for insight into your own fighting style and more effective ways to communicate with your spouse.
Which of these 4 conflict styles sounds the most like you and/or your spouse?:
1. Do you ever just give up when you disagree? If you consistently feel that your desires are just not worth the fight, you are yielding. Yielding can lead to low, simmering negative emotions like depression and resentment.
2. Do you delay tough discussions or avoid sensitive topics? This is freezing. Freezing builds up icy walls of stress, tension, anxiety and emotional distance.
3. Do you default to bickering, arguing or even fighting when you disagree? That’s the ‘fight till you win’ strategy. This can can develop into controlling behaviors, and verbal or even physical abuse. Also, fighting often results in one partner yielding, and, as noted above, yielding has bad emotional consequences.
4. Do you feel that your relationship issues are all hopeless and you are tempted to invest your time and energy elsewhere? That’s called flight. In the worst case, you can flee to addictive, numbing behaviors such as alcohol or gambling; at the very least, the problem never gets solved.