Do you remember your first fight with your partner? Maybe you haven't experienced your first argument, but as in every healthy relationship, it is bound to come sooner than later.
We are passionate people. We love hard and we fight hard. We have strong beliefs and we have spent our entire lives before being in relationship doing things our own way. It is only natural to have disagreements once we find ourselves committing to another person. Fights and conflict are not only healthy signs of a relationship, but can help deepen your understanding of your partner, in turn deepening your commitment to them.
What if I told you that the majority of all of your arguments would continue over time?
Relationship expert, John Gottman, found that 69 percent of the arguments that take place in relationships will continue to rear their ugly heads over time. What does this tell you? That you are completely and utterly normal to be at odds with your partner at times. This fact can allow you to gain some perspective of the fights that you picking and finding yourself engaging in.
Here are some tips on how to master fights for a healthy relationship:
1. Look for patterns in your arguments.
It gets old to have the same argument about emptying the dishwasher week after week. How can you preempt this argument when you know it is coming? Try to brainstorm ways to derail these fights before you are drowning in them.
2. Similarly to looking for patterns in your arguments, consider when you tend to have the most fights.
Are they usually after night of drinking? What about when the dreaded PMS symptoms start (speaking for myself!)? Do you blow up after harboring resentment over an extended period of time? Start to be more aware of what is triggering you. How can you minimize the effects of these triggers?
Get curious; what events led to this? Did you have a stressful day at work? Are you feeling particularly vulnerable? As a team, brainstorm ways to identify, communicate and diffuse the triggers that you have identified. When you feel things starting to boil, clearly communicate that with your partner.
3. Realize that anger and arguments do not destroy relationships.
It's what we do with our anger that creates more, or diffuses problems. Take some time to understand your MO; do you blame, criticize and put your partner down in the midst of an argument? Now consider how that is harming you and your relationship vs. helping.
4. When you fight, avoid criticism and blame.
When we are frustrated and fed up, it is so easy to blame anything (and everything!) on our partners. Phrases starting like, “you never…” and “you always…” place blame without clearly communicating your exact needs.
Think about it; how many times have you started an argument for it to go nowhere and leave you wondering what you were getting at in the first place? Instead, focus on what you need from your partner and communicate it in a way that doesn't put them down. Instead of saying, “you never pick up after yourself! Who am I, your mother?” Try, “the living room really needs some cleaning. I would appreciate if you could take some time to help me clean up.”
5. Take a time out.
Yup, just like in a football or basketball game, sometimes you just need to take a break. If things are escalating and you are finding yourself saying and thinking things just because you know it will hit your partner where it hurts, it is time to take a time out.
Instead of letting the intensity of the situation get the best of you, take some time to breathe and gain some perspective. Talk with your partner about time-outs in advance, so that when you call them, they are respected. Take as long as you need to cool off and come back to the topic when you are more level-headed.
6. Take time to repair negative interactions after they happen.
One of the hardest part of being in any relationship is fessing up and admitting when you are wrong. There will always be conflict in a relationship because no one is perfect and no one will agree on absolutely everything. The key is to take responsibility and learn effective ways within your relationship to repair the hurt that has taken place.
7. Every day, focus on investing positivity into your relationship.
Have an open conversation with your partner about what you both need to feel respected and loved. Begin to build up a positive emotional bank account for your relationship whenever you can. Show your respect, communicate how much you care, offer compassion, love and kindness as often as possible.
Make it your goal to not only meet your own needs, but your partner's needs to feel engaged, respected and supported. Building this positive emotional bank account can help you keep the spark alive and can help remind you all the reasons why you are in relationship, even when in the midst of an argument.