Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Scheduling Fights

In solution focused therapy, one technique that is sometimes helpful with couples is called the scheduling fights task. The couple (usually prone to conflict) is told that they are only allowed to fight at certain times. For instance they may be allowed 2 hours on Wednesday night the first week, and 1 hour the next week. Often they are told to fight hard during these times but to avoid fighting any other time.

What is the point you may ask? First, it helps a couple to interrupt their old patterns of fighting, something they may sometimes feel is impossible to stop. But when they do this exercise they do find it is possible! The old cycle is broken and they now have the opportunity to try something new.

The second benefit is that one or both members of the couple see the process of fighting as something they can actually control. Many fighting couples come into therapy believing they can't help fighting and that the other person makes them fight. Yet when they start scheduling fights, they realize the can indeed control themselves (and thus their fighting) if they choose to. What at first seems inevitable and beyond control is not really so. They realize that fighting is not so inevitable after all.

By interrupting the old pattern and showing them that they can control one's actions, the myth of endless fighting is challenged. Paired with some other techniques, this task can be useful to help a couple wanting to change things, maybe it would be helpful for you?


Dayna said...

i totally thought this post was about FLIGHTS until i saw the picture. shocking combo, wouldn't you say? maybe air canada has new entertainment? anyway, i read the post and found it really interesting. my question is, wouldn't it be kind of hard to start a fight just b/c the clock strikes 7. i mean, maybe if you've been bottling it up all week it wouldn't be, but i can see the beginning of the scheduled fight being potentially "fake" and wonder if "fake" things would come through (emotions expresed, words said, etc.) wouldn't that be a danger, or even worse that one would look for more things than usual to "fight about" during the week because they know wednesday night is coming up and they want to be armed?

Anonymous said...

Bob and I were just talking about this. How timely! Bob and I are totally in a rut with fighting in front of the kids. Bob and I have always been "fighters." I'd like to share this with Bob and see if we could pull it off...but Wednesday nights are bad for fighting, LOST is on!! :o) I guess some people schedule a date night...

Ok everyone, now you know.


Mark said...

Dayna: Great questions! First question: Isn't hard to fight, just because the clock hit's 7? You would think so! For many couples, they have so many issues of contention stored up that it would not be difficult. What we usually find though is that couples have already gone through the week and discovered that they can stop themselves and so that they can start up again - if they wish. Many don't. And if they do, it's different because they know now that they don't have to fight. As for whether they will store up more things then usual to fight over . . . doesn't often happen. The reason is that the task interrupts their cycle of fighting. Such interruptions almost always cause a couple to stop fighting as much - at least in the short term.

Jacquie: Thanks for your honesty. Trying it out will work as long as one person sticks to the plan. The thing about fighting is that it always takes two people to make it happen. And yes, I wouldn't do it on Lost Night, that would be just wrong. Good luck in scheduling some fights!