If you’re simply fighting with your girlfriend or wife, you don’t know what real fighting is. The type of fight when you are focused on the original source of your argument is a lightweight argument, one which can be resolved with relative ease. But when you and your partner elevate the fighting to a new level, in which the original subject of the argument deviates into newer, more toxic, more hostile territories, so much so that you can't even remember the original spark behind the acrimony, it’s called meta-fighting.
Meta-fighting is when you begin to argue about how you are arguing about the argument. You are bickering about style, tone, and methodology. And this argument, this meta-fight, about how you deliver your argument also spawns an argument about how you are scrutinizing and judging the analysis of the style of the argument over a topic that you most likely have forgotten, the original topic being obscured by layers and layers of analysis about the analysis about the analysis about the methodology of your arguing. By this time, the subject behind the original argument is beside the point. It’s as if the original controversy or hot-button was simply a springboard to vent deeper issues about your relationship.
Perhaps the next point is obvious: When you recognize that you are in the middle of a meta-fight, it’s important to stop it as soon as possible because the damage to your relationship can be beyond your understanding and control. So let us be clear. When you catch yourself in the middle of a meta-fight, you need to go into Damage Control Mode. Here’s what you do:
Abruptly stop arguing, clear your throat, and say you don’t feel well. Then disappear into the bathroom for at least a half hour and be resolved not to bring up the fight upon exiting your “cool-off cubicle.” Apologize for “getting carried away” and start cooking a meal, preferably comfort food. Start chopping onions, dicing carrots, peeling potatoes, and in general keep busy and pretend to be absorbed by your new task so that you don’t get sucked back into the meta-fight.
If you do not know how to cook, take on a outdoor or indoor project you’ve been putting off. Wash windows, clean the garage, vacuum, anything to distract both of you from the meta-argument.
Be adamant about not getting sucked back into the meta-argument. Remember this: A meta-argument is a black hole, a bottomless pit of pain, hurt, and suffering from which sometimes there is no return. So be warned. If you must fight with you’re partner, that is fine. But no meta-fighting, not ever.