You might have heard me talk about the 2 “Fighting Styles:” the Tiger and the Turtle. Do you know which one you are?
Many couples get caught in a cycle of recurring conflict where one partner chases and the other withdraws. During conflict, one partner gets critical, demanding, angry, or needy; and the other partner shuts down and retreats into their shell.
I call the critical, demanding partner the Tiger because when they get upset they roar! And they pursue like a tiger, to try to feel connected to their partner again.
I call the withdrawing partner the Turtle because they retreat into their shell.
Unfortunately the more the Turtle withdraws, the more the Tiger pursues; which pushes the turtle deeper into their shell, and the cycle continues.
Is this pattern sounding familiar? It’s the most common pattern in all of the couples I’ve worked with, and I’ve lived it myself. (And transformed it J)
I’ve been a turtle in one relationship and a tiger in another. Recognizing how you’re contributing to the cycle is the first step towards transforming it.
When you heal this pattern, you won’t fear a fight any more. You’ll be able to see conflict as a way to discover your and your partner’s needs on a deeper level, which can lead to feeling closer (if you approach it in the right way).
Fellow Relationship Coach Helena Hart and I have been enjoying interviewing each other recently J We recorded a video where I jam on the solutions to recurring conflict and how to transform conflict into deeper emotional intimacy.
Here are some of the suggestions I offer in this interview:
- If you’re a Tiger, speak about your feelings and needs instead of blaming your partner.
- If you’re a Turtle, you can say, “I want to hear what you’re saying, but I’m feeling [overwhelmed, pushed away, etc.] by the intensity. Can you [lower your voice; talk about your feelings instead of blaming me, etc.]
- If he/she gets defensive, get curious about what they’re feeling or wanting more/less of. You can ask if they feel heard/validated and then request that they do the same for you.
- When we’re triggered, we’re in fight or flight: the blood drains out of our thinking brain so we can fight or run! So if you can’t speak or listen with compassion, take a time-out to soothe yourself and journal about your feelings and needs, so you can talk about them compassionately when you return
- If your partner is a Tiger, plan a time to come back and continue the conversation. Then they won’t feel abandoned.
- Don’t try to solve the issue until both people feel heard, validated, and connected. Then you can feel like you’re on the same team s you solve it.
I share more examples and go into more detail in the interview. You can watch it here:
I’d love to hear your feedback. How do these tips work for you? You can post in the comments.
It really is possible to not only solve recurring conflict, but also come out of it feeling like a team; feeling closer after the fight than you did before. That’s what my partner and I experience, and that’s what my clients experience.
If you are fighting or feeling distant, or if you want to learn the tools to attract, re-ignight, and sustain lasting love, I invite you to schedule a free “Back To Love” Strategy session with me, where we create a custom-plan for your relationship! I’m here for you as a resource, so let’s chat 🙂