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How to Fight the Feud Not Just Each Other

September 12, 1993|BETTIJANE LEVINE

Do you think your parents play favorites? Do you think they treat your brother or sister better than they treat you?

Is there a relative you're so mad at that you'd like to just stop speaking to that person altogether?

Is your ex-spouse so mean that you're ready cut off communication, even though your children might suffer as a result?

Hold on there. You could be a candidate for a feud. And bear in mind what the experts say about people like you: Those who feud once will do it again and again. It's a pattern that can lead to a lifetime of cut-offs from people who might otherwise be a good resource later in your life.

Here are some tips from Dr. Constance Ahrons, a marriage and family therapist at USC, and Drs. Robert S. Carroll and Fred Gottlieb, family psychiatrists and faculty members at UCLA, on how to start changing all that:

* Your goal is to break a pattern by understanding what's really going on between you and the other person, below the surface of the battle. This involves a commitment on your part to change the situation.

* You must really care about how the other person feels, not just how you are hurting. It's no good to ask crucial questions if you don't really want to hear the answers.

* Stop fighting for your own point of view. Investigate instead how the two of you are participating together to create the problem.

* Separate what the two of you can talk about from those things that are too hot to handle. Back off when the fight erupts; say, "Let's discuss this later."

* Treat the other person respectfully. In feuds, each person feels disrespected by the other. People can fight like hell, but if they respect each other, it never ends up as a feud--it ends up as a disagreement.

* Invite a third party to mediate. It can be a friend or relative you both respect, a member of the clergy or a family therapist. With a neutral third party present, people are less apt to explode, and more tends to get resolved.

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