There's nothing quite so disheartening as that moment in an argument when you suddenly look around and wonder "how did we get here?" Maybe it started as a small disagreement, but, before you knew it, things had turned into a full-on fight. The more pressing question, though, may be less about how you got there, but rather how you make your way back to where you were before this fight. It can all feel too big — even insurmountable. Don't despair or panic, though, because by following a few therapist-approved tips for resolving fights with your partner you can do just that: resolve things.
Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples therapist in Los Angeles, tells Elite Daily it's very possible to work through arguments with your partner healthily and effectively, but it won't always be easy and may take some effort. Ultimately, he says, it's all about understanding the root cause. "There are any number of reasons that it's sometimes difficult to resolve a fight with your partner. One of the primary reasons is that either one or both partners are not feeling heard in their words and emotions," he explains. The other reason, Brown shares, is that both partners are more concerned with "winning" the fight than they are with finding a resolution. The quickest way to deal with a fight with your partner, though, is to change your mindset so that you can find real solutions. Here's how the experts say to do just that.
Focus on truly hearing your partner out.
When you're arguing with your partner, it's natural to want your side of things to be heard. Dr. Brown says the best way to work through an issue with your partner, however, is to shift your priorities to making sure you hear them out. “In other words, listen to what your partner is saying — without interrupting them,” he advises.
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, a nationally recognized licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of Training Your Love Intuition, agrees, adding that you both should listen and keep your body language open while you do so. “Don't make faces or other dismissive gestures. Sit on your hands if necessary,” she tells Elite Daily.
But listening is only the first half of the solution; you also need to make it clear that you've heard and understood what your partner has said, explains Dr. Brown. “Validate your partner's thoughts and feelings by reflecting them back to them,” he suggests. “When we reflect back to our partner what they said, and then ask them if we heard them accurately, we're sending them a message that we care enough about them.”
Prioritize finding a solution.
One of the most challenging changes to make in your argument style is setting aside the desire to win or make your point. That mindset undermines your ability to resolve your issues, explains Dr. Wish. The focus should be on finding ways you both win. The way to do that, she says, is to become solution-oriented as quickly as possible. Instead of thinking in terms of right or wrong, her advice is to come at the issue from a more open-minded and nuanced perspective. This will help the two of you get on the same page and find common ground more quickly.
Explain both the "what" and the "why" of your perspective.
When it’s your turn to share your viewpoint, Dr. Wish says it’s important to also explain why the point you're making is important to you. “Usually, the importance of a partner's view is partially based on something of high emotional value,” she says. By doing so, you can help your partner to not only understand where you're coming from, but also empathize with you. “When couples understand the emotional source of their differences, they're more able to get creative and come up with ways to address both their emotional needs,” Dr. Wish explains.
Stay in touch with your own emotions.
There'll be times in an argument where your emotions may be running high — that’s natural — but Dr. Brown says fighting in this state can undermine your ability to resolve the conflict. “Anger, itself, is what I call a ‘secondary emotion,’” says Dr. Brown. “Anger's an unconscious defense against more vulnerable feelings of sadness, hurt, or fear. It's only when we can directly experience these emotions that we can tap into what our core need is in any given conflict. So, the longer we're angry, the longer it's going to take to get to the root cause of the conflict: our unmet needs,” he explains. When emotions begin to run high, he advises employing the “S.T.O.P. method” to reduce the emotional intensity. “Stop reacting for a few moments. Take a few breaths to calm down. Observe what you're thinking and feeling. Proceed to discuss things more calmly,” he explains. That way you can get back to the task at hand with a cooler head.
Even the best relationships inevitably face conflicts, Dr. Brown assures. However, it's whether or not you deal with them respectfully by listening, validating your partner's point, and working on a mutually satisfying resolution that makes all the difference in the long run.
Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples therapist in Los Angeles