How to Fight Fair in a Relationship
No matter how poor your role models were, or how long you have been acting one way, there is always a capacity for change and improvement. Because at the end of the day, you can’t control anyone else - but what you can control is yourself and your actions. So if you know getting into a disagreement with someone you love may happen, you can start by approaching it in a way that is not adversarial. Think of it as “we” as a couple sharing ideas, instead of thinking of it as a fight of me versus them. This is the second half of How to Think Differently About Fighting with Your Partner. So here are some strategies I’ve come up with to start thinking this way:
- Always treat the other person with respect – you may not agree with what they have to say, but this is a person you love and value. So that means no eye rolling, or tisk-ing each other. And definitely no name calling. Treat the other person the way you would want to be treated, respectfully.
- Pay attention to what the other person is saying. No matter how much you disagree or think you are right, listen to what your partner is saying. You want them to hear you too, right? And then…
- Summarize back to your partner what you heard. It is vital for a person to feel heard, especially in the context of an argument. You can see this when two people are arguing and one person keeps repeating the same thing, over and over. Usually the person who keeps repeating their statements does not feel heard. Most people will do this until they feel heard. So, do yourself a favor and just summarize what you heard not only for your partner but also for yourself.
- Once your partner knows you heard them the next step is to assure them that what they are saying is valid. What they are saying is important to them, and because they are important to you, what they say should also be important to you, no matter how much you disagree. You may not agree with what they are saying, but what you are doing is assuring them that they are important, and that their feelings, even if you disagree, are important too, because quite frankly, they are!
- This step is an important one - use “I” statements. The more you can use “I” statements instead of “you” statements, the more likely your partner will actually hear what you are saying! YES! That’s the goal, right!? To be heard and understood. When most people hear “YOU” they start to shut down and have a hard time responding to the other person. “You” statements can put people on the defensive. And in a relationship you are working towards being on the same team, not opposing, so why not try talking that way?
- Don’t try to get revenge. When most people feel hurt they have the instinct to hurt back, like saying “Hey, you’re a big jerk!” But, “an eye for an eye” doesn’t work when you are trying to build a relationship. Remember that you are two people who love one another and are trying to build something together. Trying to hurt back or get revenge will only tear down what you are trying to build together.
- Find ways to diffuse some of the anger of the situation. Some people do this through humor with their partner, by making a joke or saying something silly. Other people do this by visualizing something funny in their mind. Here’s a little exercise, try doing it with someone you are angry with right now. For example, just picture your pain in the ass boss as a giant bag of dirt. Did that make you laugh? See it’s kinda funny, right? Usually doing something like this can bring a smile to our faces and bring us back down to reality. Sometimes anger can take us for a ride and we just have to learn how to get back home.
- Lastly, try to find ways to notice what you are feeling but not act out on those feelings, instead talk about the feelings. Meaning you may be really angry, but it doesn’t mean you have to be mean or cruel to someone else. You may be saying, how the heck am I suppose to do that!@?? Well, the approaches in this article and yesterday’s article are a good start. Feelings and emotions are very powerful and can drive us to act without thinking. The more you can slow down the process between having the feelings and acting on them, the better off you will be, and the better off your relationships will be as well.
In life there are always going to be bumps in the road. But if we approach these challenges armed with tools to help us, we can cruise right over them. It is possible for arguing to be done in a healthy way. If you can start to think about disagreements in this new way, there are no losers but instead there are two winners - just two people sharing differing ideas with one another. These tips do take effort and some work, especially in the heat of an argument. But the best part is, if you can stick to it, you’ll notice improvements. If you keep trying, you’ll improve more each time and pretty soon you won’t even think of it as fighting anymore - just disagreeing. Now isn’t that a better place to start?
Written by Victoria Marano, LCSW
(Image Via a-z Equipment)