To Fight, Or Not To Fight? That Is… Actually A Really Important Question

change empowered accountability improvement resolving problems Mar 06, 2023
Arguing couple. White man with dark curly hair and angry expression and outstreched palms (as in frustration) standing behind an Asian woman whose hands are covering her ears, as if she did not want to hear.

No one likes to fight with their partner, right? Well, except maybe for that one part of you that believes that fighting (also known as pursuing, standing up for, trying to talk to or fix, etc.) is the right thing to do. I’ve got that part, and she’s powerful. But more often than not, responding from “fight” has done more harm than good. Turns out fighting is not the best way of resolving conflict. Learning how to not fight (despite wanting to) has been one of the most important shifts I’ve made for improving my relationship. 


I am a fighter.


I stand up for what I believe in. I hold people accountable. I’m not afraid to challenge people. I won’t hide who I am or let things slide just so people can be more comfortable. I refuse to be walked on, disrespected, taken advantage of, unappreciated, or treated poorly.


Don’t get me wrong, I am also a big squishy ball of love, sunshine, and rainbows too, but when my internal protection system senses a threat or an injustice, this other part of me shows up ready to fight. 


(And by fight, I mean an argument, protest, challenge, conversation, advocacy, standing up, and, don’t-you-dare-leave-this-conversation-until-we-have-resolved-this kind of fight. I do not condone nor participate in physical or emotional violence.)


This part of me is fierce, fiery, and stubborn. She is the part of me who would follow my mother around the house asking her to justify her “no,” the part that would bang on my sister's door screaming when I was mad at her, and the part that wouldn’t let my partners walk away from a fight even when it was going nowhere. She’s been a loyal friend, always there to protect and stand up for me. 


And, I have come to recognize that sometimes (often), fighting the way she does is not the best choice; it’s rarely the option that’s going to get me the outcome I most desire. Still, learning to temper and soothe that fierce and fighting part of me has been one of the hardest (and most important) lessons that I’ve had to learn so that I could have a better relationship. 


Not fighting is hard.


In fact, just the other day, it took everything in me not to let her loose. 


It was our first day at a 3-day business conference in Texas, and Calvin and I were instructed to exchange brief introductions with the people next to us. One of them, a white man about our age, made an aggressive comment in his introduction about teaching children about genders. Now at first, I honestly thought I must not have heard him right. I mean, the room was pretty noisy. But when Calvin confirmed that he did say what I thought he said, my fighter was ready to go! 


I HAD to say something to this man. What kind of ally, gender-queer, social justice advocate, co-conspiratorial white person would I be if I stayed silent and let this harmful comment go unchallenged? I would just be condoning it. My silence would communicate agreement! I would be participating in the horrible oppressive culture that is, at this very moment, actively harming trans and genderdiverse people! My people. My family. Me!


I HAD to say something. I could even say it nicely, with compassion and curiosity, but something had to be said. Not saying something wasn’t an option. Both the fighter and the social justice advocate in me agreed. 


Except that… Cal had explicitly asked me not to. 


Remember, we were in Texas, which already didn’t feel safe to Cal as a black man, to say nothing of potentially revealing his identity as a trans man. Plus, the people we were talking to were White men who clearly were not aligned in their thoughts or values about gender diversity. For Cal’s nervous system, this was an extremely dangerous situation that my fight response would only inflame. He needed me to keep cool and let this go. 


Now I was in a bind. I felt torn between what was the more socially just thing to do– say something to this man or stay silent to honor my black, trans partner. 


But rather than just let it go, I got even more angry, now at Calvin! I had the thought that Calvin was trying to silence my voice, ask me to hide who I am, participate in the problem, and not be seen. Suddenly in my mind, he became the oppressor of me., My own sh*t around being pressured to hide who I really was and stay silent and be “good” came rushing to the surface. Cal said my rainbow wristband would be enough. So I rolled up my sleeves and clenched my fists. Now, I was ready to fight Cal AND this other guy. 


My mind was raging, my palms were sweating, and I was stuck in this chair trying to pay attention to the conference speaker. It was all I could do to not pull Cal into an argument about whether or not I could say something.


But I didn’t. I didn’t pull him into an argument. I didn’t say anything to that man. I took some breaths. I asked some empowered questions. I reached out to an aligned friend via text. And I talked to that part of me that wanted to fight, thanked her for her protection and advocacy, and reminded her what would probably happen if I let her have her way. 


This was NOT easy. It took me a good 20-30 minutes of intense discomfort in my mind and body to really let it go. But imagine what could have happened if I’d not been able to do that. 


I may have created a really unsafe situation for Calvin.

I would have become an unsafe person to Calvin. 

I would have created conflict and disconnection between me and Cal.

I would have missed a lot of the conference because I was upset and fighting.

I would have stayed in suffering, anger, and upset for much, much longer.


It takes practice. 


The reason that I was able to get through this situation with the awareness, skills, and conscious choices I did was because of the ongoing practice of Empowered Accountability, which included first recognizing that my fight response was not serving me or my relationship. Yet despite having been consciously practicing Empowered Accountability for over 5 years now, it is still hard to do sometimes. There are still occasions like this one that really challenge me, but I know this to be a good thing. 


One of the most important things we teach in our program is that challenges to your nervous system, whether your response is to fight, to flee, to freeze, or appease, are, in fact, gifts, resources, and opportunities for you. They are the moments in which you have the opportunity to practice and integrate new skills and beliefs. They are pathways for going deeper within yourself so that you can heal and grow even more. They are opportunities for reflection, consciousness, and learning. And in your relationships, even when they don’t go well, they can become opportunities for repair, trust-building, and connection. 


This is how we change. Opportunity after opportunity, practice after practice, reflection after reflection. 


So the next time that your fighter shows up, or your runner, or whatever other part(s) appear to help you get through the thing that feels threatening, slow down, reflect, and remember that their ideas about what to do may not be the best or right ones. Ask yourself, “What is the most likely outcome if I pursue this/say this/fight about this?”  When you can bring consciousness to your responses, you empower yourself to think and act in intentional alignment with what you really want to create in your life and relationships. 


That, my friends, is Empowered Accountability at its finest. 

If you would like support with bringing more consciousness to how you respond in your relationship and life, we are here to help. Schedule a FREE Relationship Empowerment call, and let’s explore whether our 6-month Be The One coaching program is right for you. 

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