Relationship Experts Tell You How to Fight Fair
March 15, 2015 | Dating & Relationships
Disagreements and arguments with your partner don’t have to wreck the relationship—in fact, fighting can actually help. Just follow these expert ground rules.
Whether you’ve been in a relationship for a few months, a few years, or a few decades, you’re bound to fight with your partner at some point. But what constitutes “fighting” is different for every couple: Some only admit to having disagreements; others say they occasionally bicker; some seethe in silence, while others don’t believe they’ve had a real fight until someone yells. “There are negative and unhealthy ways to fight, but disagreeing is not unhealthy,” says Laurie Mintz, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Florida and author of Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex. Since you’re going to squabble, try these eight ways to stay in fighting form without going down for the count.
Understand the goal of the fight.
“The goal of the fight is to get closer, to understand each other better, to resolve an issue so you don’t have to face it over and over again,” says Mintz. Take a deep breath during the fight and think to yourself, “This is a person I love and respect and they probably have a valid point. I need to listen and to find a grain of truth in what they’re saying.” Nothing de-escalates an argument more than someone acknowledging the truth in what the other person is saying, even if they’re not in complete agreement.
Share grievances the right way.
Before the fight even begins, couples should ideally share a culture of appreciation and respect so that they don’t resort to defamation of character, says Carrie Cole, M.Ed., LPC-S, Certified Gottman Master Trainer, Center For Relationship Wellness. If you want to have a difficult discussion before it becomes a fight, Mintz suggests saying, “There’s something I want to talk about, is this a good time?” Then start the conversation in a gentle way and take ownership of your issue, saying, “I have a problem with…[fill in the blank],” suggests Cole. Allow yourself to accept input from your partner and try to see things from their point of view. Remember, part of the reason you’re with this person is that your value systems are aligned.
Go to bed mad sometimes.
You probably heard that “you should never go to bed angry,” but experts say there are times when you might need to sleep on the issue. If you or your partner is exhausted—or one of you drank alcohol that escalated the fight—it’s okay to say, “I love you, let’s talk about it in the morning.” By then, hopefully the intensity will have dissipated, and one of you might realize you were just tired or feeling sensitive. “You have to judge the situation,” says Mintz. “If you’re too exhausted to resolve a fight, stop it before it goes downhill fast.” Just be sure to address it within 24 to 48 hours, before you get wrapped up in life again. Because if you just “move on” but aren’t emotionally connected, the next argument that comes up will likely include this fight in it as well and be too overwhelming to deal with, says Cole.