It is inevitable that couples will fight from time to time. Not all fights are bad for a relationship. The trick is to know what is worth fighting for and what is not, and how to fight. Become a smart fighter who builds a relationship instead of destroying.
Fighting is part of the deal when you’re a couple, as you are two different individuals of different genders, from different backgrounds and different worldviews, among many other differences. Conflict has actually been cited as one of the factors that make a relationship healthy because it allows a couple to clear the air between them. Indeed, couples that don’t discuss their issues or keep them buried don’t last long. However, as much as conflicts in relationships are inevitable, even in the most loving of relationships, it’s not only what you fight about that’s important, but also how you fight.
In some cases, couples fight in order to get even, prove they are right, or control one another, all of which are wrong motives. Both parties in a relationship are entitled to air out their feelings but it has to be done in a constructive way. A disagreement should be about finding a resolution. It should not be turned into a competition, and there shouldn’t be winners or losers at the end of it all. A relationship is a partnership, so if one party loses, both lose. Thus, there is a right and wrong way to fight in relationships and it’s possible to keep an argument fair and civil. Here are a few pointers.
Keep it private. The conflict is between the two of you. If you need to talk it out, go somewhere private where you can talk at length without interruption or scrutiny. Avoid arguing in public or involving others in your conflicts.
Focus on the issue at hand. Bringing up issues from the past will start a different conflict within a conflict, pushing you further and further away from a resolution. You cannot change the past. You can only change today, so try your best to stay focused on the conflict at hand and solve one issue at a time. It’s easier and much more effective. Focusing on an issue also means that you stop whatever you’re doing to talk and listen to one another, so switch off the TV or music and stay off your phone until everything is resolved.
Use “I” statements. You know best what you want or how you feel so talk about how you feel or how your partner’s behaviour affects you. Don’t analyse your partner or think you know what they feel or believe. You may come across as controlling and arrogant and invite defensiveness on your partner’s end. For instance, say, “I feel disrespected when you come late for our dates” instead of “You’re always late for our dates! You don’t really care about my time.” It is important to see that your “I” statement goes beyond the complaint. For example, “I feel disrespected when you come late for our dates, could you please leave home earlier or let me know in advance when you’re going to be late?”
Listen and give each other a chance to speak. Don’t talk at the same time. Let one person speak at a time and when one speaks, the other should be listening, really listening, and not just thinking of a comeback. The urge to get your point out may be strong in an argument but don’t interrupt.
Avoid personal attacks. At times the partner on the losing side may resort to hitting the other where it hurts by using something their partner is sensitive or insecure about against them. For instance, talking about how much weight your partner has put on during an argument because you know that this will hurt him or her. Avoid name-calling, insulting, sarcasm, swearing and any form of character assassination. It may seem like a good idea in the heat of the moment and it may look like you’re winning but it might put a lasting dent in your relationship.
Don’t shout or use force. Any use or threat of physical force is unacceptable. Exercise self-control and never let your anger get to this point. Use of force infringes on your partner’s boundaries and sense of safety. In the same breath don’t shout at each other as this escalates things and it gets even more difficult to resolve an issue when emotions run high. Make a deliberate effort to keep your voice down. If either of you is too emotionally charged to reason, take time out.
Take time-out. When things start to get out of hand, it’s advisable to take a break to cool off. When a person is wound up, it’s nearly impossible to be objective or fight fairly. The short break is to help you cool off, calm down and get some perspective. However, don’t use the break to withdraw completely from the issue at hand. It’s important to resolve an issue while it’s still fresh. You may find you both have a different outlook on things after calming down.
Agree to disagree. Realistically speaking, you will not agree on everything or resolve every argument that you get into. It’s necessary to be aware of this fact and respect the fact that you and your partner have different outlooks on various issues.
Kiss and make-up. How an argument ends is very important. Don’t revel in your win, if you happen to be the one in the right. Allow your partner to retreat with dignity. Find a way of extending an olive branch and helping them save face by cracking a joke or giving them a hug. It may take some effort but ensure that you kiss and make up after a fight. Let your conflicts bring you closer and help you understand each other better.