I used to think fighting in a relationship meant the end of that relationship.
I had only certain perspectives of what relationships were: what they looked like when they worked and what they looked like when they didn't. Movies and television shows showed me cookie cutter couples who had midnight strolls on the beach, liked each other all the time, and had one climactic fight that would eventually lead to a brief will they or won't they five minutes, acting like the penultimate moments before the happy ending conclusion.
My childhood, and even some of my adulthood, showed me arguments meant unhappiness, a mixed match, a divorce. It was a very unfair depiction of relationships, too black and white with not much room for the shades of gray that often act as the true nature of relationships.
Arguments happen in relationships and, unlike what my previous beliefs held as truth, they can honestly make the relationship as much as it can break it. I used to think never having a fight was the road to a happy home, but that was until I realized that disagreeing is not unhealthy in a relationship. You're bound to disagree and you're bound to have arguments, it's just important to streamline them with certain rules that prevent them from wreaking havoc on the overall quality of the relationship.
You have to learn to fight fair with your partner. Below are some ways to keep arguments from being the premature end to your relationship.
1. Change the goal of your fight.
As someone who defines herself as compassionate, I pride myself in being able to feel vibes from a person, even if they aren't voicing aloud how they feel. That is a beautiful gift in my opinion, but in the past, it's been something that I've wielded into a weapon to hurt and destroy when I'm angry about something. My goal during a fight used to be, “I'm going to hurt you as much as you're unintentionally hurting me". That's the wrong way to look at anything and is very counterproductive when trying to push the relationship into a better place.
Instead of looking at the fight or disagreement as a place where you need to automatically defend yourself, take a breath, pause for a beat, and listen to see if your partner has any validity in their points. Remember that you love this person and they love you, so de-escalate the fight by finding something you agree with in what your partner is saying to you. Vocalizing that you see what they see by saying, “Okay, you have a point when you say this…" is far more productive than saying something negative or derogatory just because you might not agree with the entire statement.
2. Take ownership of your shit.
A lot of the time, arguments or disagreements happen because you've swept issues underneath the rug for so long that a molehill becomes a mountain. Anyone could tell you that a mountain is always going to be a lot harder to climb once it's towering in front of you and over you. Something that he or she did might have rubbed you the wrong way or perhaps touch on an insecurity of yours that caused you to react in a jealous or defensive way once the situation comes about and presents itself again.
What you rationalize as a situation or an occurrence that's always hit a soft spot for you, your partner sees crazy because they can't see where any of it is coming from. To avoid this, talk to each other with appreciation and respect to begin the conversation on a positive note and this can be done by asking if it's a good time to have a talk and then own your issue. “I have a problem with…"
I've learned personally that this is a great way to voice insecurities in a way that allows your partner to give input in a judgment-free zone as opposed to throwing it onto them in the heat of anger and making them feel responsible. By owning my negative feelings and stopping them from becoming something angry and heated, I open the floor to communication and him being able to walk with me to a place of comfort and understanding. So always use “I" statements to reflect ownership, never say “you".
3. Have a clear focus during the fight.
When I wasn't fighting the right way, my partner and I fought about every grievance we ever had with one another in one fight, lasting for an hour or so sometimes. It would escalate and then de-escalate and because our communication suffered whenever the conversation went sour, I viewed arguments as the period of time where I'd bring up times over the course of the couple of years where I felt disrespected and forgave him for, times he was late somewhere, times he annoyed me like no other – things that had no room in the argument – especially the things that had been deemed forgiven.
An argument is not the point in time where you talk about everything that has ever bothered you about your partner or every wrong they've ever did from date number one to the present day. Talk about what is relevant to the issue you have at the time and save the delayed confrontations about money, in-laws, coming home late, lack of date nights, etc for the time and place that they've come about organically. If your issue with him or her is about cancelling plans with you last minute, focus the fight on that, how them not showing up makes you feel, and how that feeling of disappointment can be avoided in the future. Keep it at that and stop at that.
4. Take a break from the fight you're having.
This is something else my partner taught me in our past arguments. When things get too heated, he needs to walk away. Initially, my abandonment issues made me view that as him walking away from me and leaving me and I internalized and sulked. One day, though, while talking outside of an argument, he asked me, “Well how is my telling you, 'I need to take a walk' and then going to take that walk different from you getting quiet when we argue?" I didn't even think about that until then. I had my way of recoiling in myself to calm myself down and that was to stop talking and to think about what was happening. And he had his. Neither of our actions were rude or dismissive, it was simply our way of taking a break from what was happening and regrouping.
Truth be told, when an argument isn't going well and either party seems more concerned with making their points instead of seeking to understand, nothing gets solved and the argument often escalates more so than it de-escalates. Instead of saying something hurtful due to frustration, take a break from the argument and come back when one or both of you can be receptive to what is being said.
When it comes to being in a relationship, fighting will never be a never, but it can be cut down drastically and the intensity of it can be significantly reduced by incorporating a lot of the aforementioned pointers. Arguments are not a time to hurt or disrespect your partner. Be receptive, be respectful, and refrain from blame.
What are some methods you use to fight fair with your partner? What did it take to get your communication over that hurdle? Share with me below!