All couples argue, it’s normal and dare I say even healthy. Conflict has the power to make your relationship stronger than ever, but it can also cause irreparable damage, all depending on whether or not it is done constructively.
Now here is the big question, in terms of frequency, how much is too much? Each couple and each individual within it are unique, so the answer to this question differs from one couple to another. Frequency shouldn’t be your frame of reference. Rather than looking at how often you fight, the wiser alternative is to look at the quality of the fights you’re having.
Aim to fight better instead of to fight less.
1. Stick to the Facts.
Keep the discussion focused on the facts of the issue at hand, as opposed to making assumptions about what is really going on. Understand that your feelings and emotional baggage may be skewing your perception of the reality and facts of the actual situation.
2. Avoid Defensive Behaviors.
When your partner is opening up about something you said or did that hurt them, take the time to understand where they’re coming from and objectively look at the situation from their perspective. Be courageous enough to take responsibility when the onus is on you instead of engaging in defensive behaviors like; deflecting blame, justifying your behavior, striking back, raising your voice, or bulldozing.
3. Know When to Apologize & Compromise.
Openness to compromise and a sincere heartfelt apology are not only necessary but are very meaningful and helpful for healing when you have wronged your partner.
These are not traits of weakness but rather traits of self-awareness & empathy (which are some of the main pillars of successful relationships). Neither partner can always have their way. Differentiate between the times where you should stand your ground and when you should compromise.
4. Avoid Aggressive & Passive Aggressive Behaviors.
These can take many forms. They can be verbal (ie. insults, character assaults, swearing, backhanded comments, shouting, name calling) and nonverbal (stonewalling, dismissive gestures, breaking things, physical violence etc..).
These behaviors unnecessarily escalate situations & divert attention from the issue at hand. They can also cause lasting emotional damage (ie. If you threaten to leave your partner out of anger this will leave them feeling unsettled and insecure in the relationship) and of course in cases that include physical violence, the severity of the damage increases.
5. Focus on Solving the Problem
Remember that the goal of engaging in the conflict to begin with is to solve a problem. The sooner you shift your mindset from wining and being right to finding the root of the issue and resolving it together as team (not as opponents), the sooner you will see improvements in the quality and outcome of the conflicts you are having.
6. Pick Your Battles.
To make sure the fights you DO have are given the proper importance (and for your sanity), keep in mind that not every little thing is worth fighting over. Not sweating the small stuff by letting the little things go does not make you a pushover. It makes you a patient mindful person.
However, pertinent issues regarding things that leave you feeling hurt, betrayed, or that have the potential to cause resentment or damage if left to fester should absolutely be given proper focus.
Do your best to keep things in perspective and remain grateful for the good instead of nitpicking to focus on the bad.
7. Focus on the Present Situation.
One of the main reasons small fights turn into bigger one is because we tend to add them onto previous larger incidents. Instead, keep the discussion focused on the current situation. This will allow you to keep the severity of an incident in perspective and to explore it in a less biased way.
8. Express Yourself Clearly & Mindfully.
Organize your thoughts & feelings before throwing them at your partner in the form of an emotional outburst. This act of self-awareness and preparation will help you express yourself in a more clear, mindful way, it will help your partner better understand you & it will create a more productive conversation. Speaking in “I” rather than “You” when expressing yourself also helps you to focus on expressing your feelings rather than pointing the finger at your partner.
9. Listen More, Talk Less.
Arguments are not about airing your frustrations and getting your point across. They’re about reaching mutual understanding and listening to how your partner is feeling and why. Listening for the sake of understanding as opposed to for the sake of replying is the only way to identify underlying issues and properly resolve them in a lasting way. If you’re focusing on what to say next, you’re not focusing on understanding your partner.
10. When you forgive, REALLY Forgive.
Only say that an argument is resolved and that you have forgiven if this is truly the case. Otherwise, it will simply keep resurfacing, extending the conflict over time which will likely cause it to become bigger than it needs to be.
Holding onto old anger & unresolved issues is a sure-fire way to create resentment and distance which will impede you from progressing as a couple. Once an argument IS resolved, leave it in the past. Holding it over your partner’s head or using it against them in future conflicts will only lead to more conflict.
Conflict isn’t pleasant, BUT it is an indication that you’re invested enough in the relationship to face the issues, even when its not easy. Facing issues together with empathy, self-awareness and active listening will help you feel safe to be vulnerable with one another and really open up.
This will create a stronger bond through deeper mutual understanding and emotional security. If you and your partner never fight, you might be the rare exception, but it is more likely that one or both partners has emotionally checked out or may not be comfortable sharing their feelings.
So fight fairly, fight productively and most importantly fight as a team!
Previously published on “Hello, Love”, a Medium publication.
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