There's an old saying that we take our frustrations out on those closest to us. Think of you and your mom, for example. You guys love each other, but when you had a rough day at school, who was the first person you lashed out on? Not the teacher who assigned you a bad homework grade. Not the bully who yanked your pants down in gym class. You screamed at your mom who simply asked you how your day went.
Fighting in a romantic relationship is no different. You see your significant other on a daily basis. Morning, noon and night, this person is beside you, eating dinner with you, cooking meals, texting you while you're bored in your department meeting, watching the same television shows as you and then slinging their arm around you at night. Now your significant other becomes your primary target.
Human beings are extremely complex creatures who sometimes struggle with filtering our emotions. But when it comes to healthy fighting, both parties need to have a certain level of maturity. Maturity means you realize that him liking an Instagram picture of his co-worker eating lunch at Qdoba doesn't mean he's virtually cheating on you.
Me and my fiancé barely argue. That's not to say he doesn't drive me absolutely insane sometimes. Sometimes I get annoyed when he clamps his fingertips down on my nose pretending to bite my nose like he's a shark. Sometimes I get annoyed when I'm trying to do homework, and he's sitting behind me strumming his guitar.
Likewise, I do things that bother him. For example, I am the actual worst when it comes to cleaning out my tupperware containers. I'll bring a salad to work, bring half off it back home and leave it in my car until we either have no clean tupperware in the apartment or until the salad is completely molded over. My fiancé, understandably, hates this grotesque habit of mine. Especially when he goes in my car and decides to clean a container.
These are all catalysts for arguments. Depending on the kind of day we had, our moods can be teetering on the edge, just waiting for something small to happen so we can fume. But we don't let that happen. When these tiny things come up, the first thing we do is talk about them.
He clamps on my nose because 9 out of 10 times I laugh at it. If during that one time I'm just not having it, I tell him honestly that I'm not in the mood. I take it a step further and tell him why. Maybe my friend said something to me that got under my skin. Maybe my article got rejected. Maybe I am just having one of those days where I wish things were going differently. Being able to talk about the deeper issues allows us to fight healthily.
When you keep the level of communication open, you will begin to realize what triggers you and how to fix the problem without hurting the person you love or your relationship. If I said to my fiancé, "Stop doing that to my nose. You're so immature!" I'd be hurting his feelings, which I don't want to do. I'd be making him feel bad, and furthermore, I wouldn't be addressing the real problem, thus only perpetuating the cycle.
It sounds much better to say, "Babe, I had a really bad day because the article I'd been working on for a week got rejected and I'm feeling down about it. I need a little space. Is that OK?" Not only does telling the truth make you feel better, but it means you're handling the situation with respect and dignity.
The number one rule of maintaining a healthy relationship when fighting is to understand the root of the problem and not aim to attack. If you take a few minutes to analyze how you feel before you speak, you'll see just how dramatic of a change your relationship will undergo.