I've asked you questions before and I want to thank you so much for the advice you've given me. It's really been helpful, but today I've got another question for you. I've been friends with a guy for a few years now, and I'll be the first to admit that I'm not always an easy guy to get along with. I also used to have a problem with lying. Little things just to see if I could get people to believe me. Well, this friend is someone that I lied to. I'm ashamed of it and I begged him to forgive me because his friendship is important to me. When he finally forgave me, I promised not to lie to him ever again, and for about a year now I've been true to my word and been completely honest with him.
But every now and then we argue and he always throws that past mistake and a few others in my face. It's emotionally draining and we have been fighting more and more recently. I still value his friendship, but it’s starting to wear down on me. Should I just stop talking to him, or keep taking this to preserve out friendship? Is it even worth it for me to work at our friendship anymore? I don't want to hurt him or make him mad, but Ii just don't think I can handle him opening up old wounds. What should I do?
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One of the most challenging aspects of being in a committed relationship has to do with learning how to fight. Whenever two or more people are involved in any kind of relationship, you’re going to have disagreements. That’s inevitable, and that leads to fighting. It’s okay to fight; that’s how we resolve differences (unless you’re the U.S. Congress). But successful couples learn how to fight fairly. Your mate has violated one of the rules of fighting fairly: don’t bring up the past.
This is not fair because it undermines the factor of forgiveness. When your mate said he forgave you for lying to him in the past, and then he brings it up in a current fight, that says that he has not, in fact, forgiven you. So, if he HAS forgiven you, then he should not be throwing the past in your face again. By being honest with him for a year—and likely more if you keep your commitment—you have shown him that you have changed and that should be enough to move on.
There are other rules of fighting fairly, including:
1. No name calling. Calling someone you supposedly love nasty names is particularly hurtful. It doesn’t resolve the fight, but just makes it worse. It makes your mate think you really don’t love him.
2. No yelling. You can have an argument without raising your voice. This is rather difficult, I know, because when we’re frustrated we tend to do it, but if you and your mate just start shouting louder and louder what happens, ironically, is you can no longer hear what the other person is saying; you’re too busy trying to be heard.
3. No—and I mean ABSOLUTELY NO—hitting or other physical attacks of any kind.
4. No blaming. Don’t blame the other person for a problem that is likely caused by both of you miscommunicating. Saying “It’s all your fault” is not at all constructive and will put your mate on the defensive.
5. Stay on topic. If you’re arguing about, say, who is supposed to pay the electric bill this month, don’t bring up an unrelated subject like, “you’re so disorganized you can’t keep anything straight,” or “and I hate when you clip your toenails on the kitchen table.” If you want to solve a problem, you have to focus.
6. Don’t use something minor to start an argument that is really about something major underneath. I’ve been guilty of this one myself. Yelling at your mate for not washing the dishes when what’s really troubling you is that he got himself fired from work by smoking weed is not going to solve the real problem. Extreme example, but you get the idea.
7. No kidney punches. That is, no taking aim at another person’s vulnerability in order to win an argument. Say you’re arguing about who does more to clean around the house. Telling your mate “well you’re just too fat and lazy to use a broom” when you know he is self-conscious about his weight is a low-blow.
8. Don’t manipulate. The most manipulative thing is turning on the tear ducts to get your way. It’s okay to have honest tears, but there are a lot of people who can make themselves cry because they know their partner will back down.
9. Give each other equal time in the argument. One way to do this is to have an object that you agree that whoever is holding it is allowed to talk (wow, awkward sentence!) The other person cannot talk while the object is being held. To lighten the mood, you might make it a silly object, such as a clown Pez dispenser or your favorite toy from Bad Dragon.
10. Clarify and reinforce. After you have argued and each has had his or her say, each partner should repeat what he/she believes was said and what the conclusion was so that you both agree to the results.
11. When you're done, give your partner a kiss and hug to reinforce that everything is okay. Or, if you want to go the extra mile, have make-up sex :-P
The above rules apply for any relationship, really, although I realize you're talking about a friendly relationship and not a romantic one, so in your case you would probably want to leave out #11 :-P
Anyway, long-winded way of saying that Papabear feels you should keep trying, keep working on your relationship. Relationships are never easy; they are not all peaches and cream, but if you want to have something really long-lasting then it is worth investing some time and effort into it.
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