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Quiz that’ll help you win every row with your other half

  • Relationship counselor Dr Judith Wright has been married for  36 years
  • She says fighting with her husband Bob brings them closer
  • They have analysed the types of fighters they are for a harmonious household 
  • Her quiz aims to help you understand the dynamics of your relationship 

By Dr Judith Wright For The Daily Mail

Published: 19:39 EST, 15 November 2017 | Updated: 05:01 EST, 16 November 2017

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When my husband, Bob, and I fall out, you might expect us to settle our differences in a calm and measured way.

After all, we’re relationship counsellors with decades of experience between us. But, in truth, we fight like cat and dog, often shouting and stamping around.

During 36 years of marriage, we’ve both slammed doors. I’ve even hurled the odd ornament in Bob’s direction.

It sounds intense, I know. But when we fight, we don’t tiptoe around issues. No difficult truth is left unspoken. Then we make up — having got right to the heart of the problem. Ultimately, fighting brings us closer rather than tearing us apart.

Yet most relationship books and much of the marital advice on offer today would baulk at all this, steering couples away from conflict.

Relationship counselor Dr Judith Wright believes learning how you quarrel and how your other half responds can help to build a harmonious household
Relationship counselor Dr Judith Wright believes learning how you quarrel and how your other half responds can help to build a harmonious household

Relationship counselor Dr Judith Wright believes learning how you quarrel and how your other half responds can help to build a harmonious household

The conventional wisdom is to encourage the art of ‘active listening’ — that’s when, instead of arguing, couples are urged to talk about how confrontational behaviour affects their feelings using something called ‘I messages’, such as ‘When you say that, I feel this’.

Or ‘I feel as though you don’t want to help me when you forget to take the bin out, and I would much prefer it if you tried harder to remember.’

Can you really imagine any happy couple interacting in such a stilted way? If Bob tried it with me I’d feel patronised and his attempts to reason with me would probably only end in a row anyway.

That’s not to say that Bob and I haven’t had to learn how to fight well — indeed, our styles have evolved over the years.

In the early years, when Bob upset me I’d sulk for days, venting my fury in a personal diary. I’d then ‘accidentally’ leave the diary out for my husband to read.

Back then, I was passive aggressive and scared of conflict — it felt as though a fight was a terrible crisis.

Meanwhile, Bob was more controlling. It was his way or the highway, and he seemed to care more about winning an argument than finding the cause.

I remember one dreadful fight, which of course I now realise was about nothing in particular, but which escalated in seconds from a tiff to a major shouting match.

Bob criticised me for frying an egg on a high heat instead of his preferred lower flame. Infuriated, I went to hide in our bedroom, cataloguing Bob’s failings as a husband in my diary.

She says conflict can help to bring a couple closer if problems are dealt with head on (file image)
She says conflict can help to bring a couple closer if problems are dealt with head on (file image)

She says conflict can help to bring a couple closer if problems are dealt with head on (file image)

He then read this — and put up a wall of silence for the next two days.

But, of course, none of the fight was really about the egg. It was about me feeling angry that Bob was trying to control me, while he felt I didn’t respect him enough to follow his way of doing things.

Over time, we were able to unravel the frustrations behind our arguments, and our fights became quicker and less damaging. Now, with the benefit of decades of analysis of other couples’ relationships, we want to help other couples understand the way they bicker and how to row better, too.

Bickering and arguments are part of a healthy relationship — in fact, conflict can bring a couple closer if it encourages them to face problems head on and get to the real reason they’re upset, instead of pretending everything’s fine when it’s not.

By learning how you quarrel — and how your other half responds — you will get to the very heart of the dynamics of your relationship and can then take action to address the tensions that are perhaps simmering well below the surface. Bob and I have identified four types of fighters: the Co-operator, the Analyser, the Regulator and the Energiser.

She says comparing notes from her quiz can help relationships to fight better (file image)
She says comparing notes from her quiz can help relationships to fight better (file image)

She says comparing notes from her quiz can help relationships to fight better (file image)

As a Co-operator, I’ve had to learn to bring problems to the surface, rather than hope they’ll go away by themselves. Bob, who I now realise is a Regulator — meaning he tries to control the argument rather than explain his feelings — has learned that showing honest emotion is strong, not weak.

For a more harmonious household, take our quiz to see how you react in different social situations. And then ask your other half to do the same. Compare notes to help you find your relationship fighting style — and learn to fight better.

SO, WHAT SORT OF ARGUER ARE YOU?

The couple you’re dining out with start to argue. Do you . . .

a. Try to defuse the situation and calm them down.

b. Encourage them each to explain so you understand what they’re arguing about.

c. Try to think of a solution for them.

d. Engage actively in the argument, attempting to steer it in a positive direction.

At parties, who are you most at pains to avoid?

a. The prickly loner standing in the corner.

b. The bragger, holding court and stretching the truth to make themselves look good.

c. The self-important do-gooder trying to enlist your help in a project, while offering nothing in return.

d. The cold fish who shows no emotion.

She says being a Relationship Co-operator can cause problems to fester (file image)
She says being a Relationship Co-operator can cause problems to fester (file image)

She says being a Relationship Co-operator can cause problems to fester (file image)

Home from a holiday, what makes you feel that it was a success?

a. You made new friends.

b. You researched your destination, created an interesting itinerary, and followed it to the letter.

c. You got to choose for yourself what you did each day.

d. You went somewhere completely new.

You made a mistake and have upset a relative in the process. They’ve phoned to have it out with you. What do you do?

a. Apologise profusely, insisting you’ll put things right.

b. Encourage them to explain exactly what has upset them so that you can understand what went wrong.

c. Ask them how you can make them feel better as quickly as possible.

d. Assure them that you take their hurt feelings seriously and are determined never to repeat your mistake.

Working in a group situation, do you:

a. Enjoy sharing ideas and getting input from a variety of people.

b. Prefer to work independently, turning to others only when issues arise.

c. Find that as long as everyone does his or her job, it can be very effective.

d. Think it’s more energising than working alone.

She says Relationship Regulators can cause problems to stay unresolved because of their need to win every argument (file image)
She says Relationship Regulators can cause problems to stay unresolved because of their need to win every argument (file image)

She says Relationship Regulators can cause problems to stay unresolved because of their need to win every argument (file image)

You made your partner a promise that you can no longer keep. How do you tell them?

a. Apologise and ask how you can make it up to them.

b. Tell them precisely why you can’t keep it.

c. Propose an alternative that works better for you.

d. Try to persuade them that an alternative would work better for both of you.

Which do you most desire from a relationship?

a. Connection

b. Perfection

c. Influence

d. Excitement

When something isn’t going to plan, do you:

a. Seek outside help.

b. Analyse what is and isn’t working, so you can identify where you’re going wrong.

c. Make a snap decision that takes you in another direction.

d. Give yourself a pep talk, before tackling the project with renewed vigour.

She advises Relationship Energisers not to be concerned about the approval of others (file image)
She advises Relationship Energisers not to be concerned about the approval of others (file image)

She advises Relationship Energisers not to be concerned about the approval of others (file image)

Out for coffee with a friend you are most likely to:

a. Talk about something you have in common.

b. Grill them for gossip about mutual friends.

c. Steer the conversation towards persuading them to do you some kind of favour.

d. Carry the conversation, talking about the things that really interest you.

ANSWERS 

Mostly A: you’re a Relationship Co-operator

You avoid conflict and try to get along with everyone. When loved ones are unhappy, you feel a sense of responsibility.

Your ability to co-operate can be a great strength in your relationship. But the fact your own needs consistently come last, and your partner doesn’t seem to care as much about your happiness as you do theirs, can breed resentment.

The problem is that you loathe confrontation, ever fearful that the next big row could bring your relationship to an end.

And so you pretend everything’s OK, preferring to brush issues under the carpet than face them head on.

This causes upset to fester — leading to loud eruptions or, worse still, a quiet divorce.

HOW TO ARGUE BETTER

Remember, your opinions and needs matter. But unless you can learn how to voice them, how on earth will your partner ever know what they are?

This doesn’t mean you have to start screaming and shouting to be heard.

You just need to fully grasp what is a difficult truth for you: that it’s OK sometimes for everything not to be OK.

Turning your feelings into words — perhaps as a letter to your partner — will help. Then, as you see that the world keeps turning, your confidence in tackling more issues face-to-face will grow.

Mostly B: you’re a Relationship Analyser

You have a sharp mind, with great organisational skills and an eye for detail. You’re slow to commit, but once you do you’re fiercely loyal.

You work methodically through challenges — your way of trying to avoid mistakes. Indeed, you are pathologically risk-averse and take criticism badly.

This means that instead of being open about how you feel, you internalise worries and fears — so when you struggle, your partner can’t understand what’s gone wrong and thinks you’re being difficult and obstructive.

You are the classic passive-aggressive, using facts in place of emotions, thereby allowing your discontent to build up like the Co-operator.

HOW TO ARGUE BETTER

Try to recognise that strong relationships can be messy — you’re bright, but emotional intelligence seems to thwart you, meaning you can struggle to empathise when your partner seems excited or upset.

Learning to value their emotions — even when they don’t seem logical to you — will help your relationship to grow.

A good exercise in developing emotional intelligence is to give a name to your feelings. You do this by assigning how you feel to one of five primary categories: fear, hurt, anger, sadness and joy.

Being able to name what’s going on inside your head to yourself and your partner will allow you to connect better during arguments, helping you both to understand why you are upset.

Mostly C: You’re a Relationship Regulator

You like to be in control — you organise, lead and have a reputation for making things happen. This is great at work, but you have a habit of wanting to be top dog at home, too.

The good news is that you’re not afraid to bring simmering problems and conflicts to the surface, where they can be dealt with. The bad news: you can end up so focused on winning the fight that nothing actually gets resolved.

Meanwhile, as much as your go-getting personality can be exciting for your partner, there’s a danger you don’t always value what they bring to the relationship enough.

HOW TO ARGUE BETTER

Try to shake off your ‘I know best, so just do it my way’ approach — a little give and take can go a long way.

Often, when you appear angry it’s actually bluster, covering up the fact that you feel hurt or even afraid. One of your biggest fears is being taken advantage of, even by someone you love.

To express deep feelings feels like a weakness to you. It’s not.

Indeed, if you can recognise this as a strength you’ll unlock a far deeper level of understanding between you and your partner.

Try admitting what you truly feel instead of covering it up with bravado, and you’re far more likely to achieve meaningful resolutions when you fight.

Mostly D: you’re a Relationship EnergiSer

You’re the life and soul of the party — chatty, confident and creative, people are instantly drawn to you.

But you fear loss of approval to such an extent that you are hypersensitive to rejection — when you feel it, this cuts you to your core, leaving you questioning whether your relationship can possibly continue.

Meanwhile, if your partner fails consistently to match your passion for the relationship, you interpret this as meaning they’re less invested than you are, and again wonder whether they want to be with you at all.

HOW TO ARGUE BETTER

Not everyone’s relationship style is as expressive as yours — remember that when you start to feel insecure and doubt your partner’s feelings for you.

Just because they may be subdued from time to time, doesn’t mean they’ve gone off you or that something’s terribly wrong.

Nor do you have to be constantly entertaining to be loved — it’s OK sometimes simply to be. Remember, you’ve already won your partner over. You don’t have to continually work at earning their love, nor should you expect them to constantly prove they love you back.

The Heart Of The Fight: A Couple’s Guide To Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer by Judith and Bob Wright is available from Amazon at £13.99.

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