"Even This I Get to Experience."
Normal Lear (about life's catastrophes)
We like to have things, don't we? Specifically, it's our ego that's doing the wanting. It wants things to attach to. People would be one type of thing; money, power, and status are others; and winning is another. That's a big one. Ego likes to win, whether the stakes are big or tiny. Our ego thinks that being a "winner" is the opposite of being a "loser." But sometimes when we think we've won, we've actually lost; or when we win a small victory, we give up something greater. Sometimes winning and losing are one and the same.
Attachment to winning, justice, getting our fair share, being noticed, or being thanked is a hard impulse to ignore. We come by it naturally (biology is a cruel master) and that tendency is reinforced the more we are exposed to wins and losses. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to have personal victories, but focusing intently on them, or expecting them, is something else. Not getting what we expect we should have can often mean missing out on unexpected gifts. Having our cake and eating it too can mean being too into cake to notice the baker.
"With every loss there is gain, and vice versa."
Speaking of silliness, let's get back to business and look at the case of an intimate partnership in which there is a lot of fighting. Typically, when we ask what the fights are about, the answer is usually, "Nothing" or "The same, old thing." This indicates that what's going on isn't really what's going on. In both cases, the fight is not designed to work out a disagreement. In the first case, things can't be worked out because the fight is about something unspoken, and in the second case, things can't be worked out because it's a perennial problem that is most likely permanent and not up for compromise.
So what can be done? The way I see it, there are only two choices. The first option is to deal with "the thing under the thing," that is, we can go deep down and deal with the real issue. But oftentimes going deep isn't practical. Both partners would have to get serious about some kind of inner exploration (like therapy, for example). Let's assume that that just isn't going to happening. That leaves the second choice: Dealing with what's up on the surface; that is, the unwinnable fight.
One time-tested way to deal with this surface issue is for one or the other of the partners to decide to simply stop trying to win one of these fights over nothing. Maybe he or she realizes (finally) that it isn't about what it's about, so the pointlessness can stop any time. The mechanism to put these magical brakes on? That wise partner will have only to surrender. Admitting defeat means losing a meaningless fight. But it means that the fighting stops. And look what is gained when the fighting stops! Peace. Yes, the ego doesn't feel peaceful at first, because it feels like a loser, but the psyche feels like it's walking in warm sand.
One group member protested this approach. "She keeps fighting; she won't let me stop."
"They are the chosen ones
who have surrendered.
Once they were particles of light
now they are the radiant sun."
Ending fights this way can cause a new disruption, because it's such a new dynamic in the relationship. It will take as much getting used to by the winner as it will you, the real winner. But don't take my word for it. Try it yourself. You don't have to be good at surrendering, so don't feel pressured. It takes strength and courage but you've got enough. Try surrendering and see what happens.
Please keep in mind that surrender does not involve letting go of your values, your integrity, or your Self! We are just talking about surrendering our pride, our attachment to outcome, and our old counterproductive habits. As Maxwell Smart used to say, "It's an old trick, but it just might work." Try letting go of winning and see how it feels to actually be in control. I think you'll be in for quite an experience.