Fighting well is a skill. After all, even the most loving partner can be a trial to cope with from time to time. I know I am, and the longer Markus is exposed to the full range of my inadequacies, I grow more grateful everyday for his patience and diplomatic skills.
But fights are not so bad, no? When we do so in a fair and mutually supportive manner, even the worst can be a surprising source of deeper connection and a wellspring of growth for a healthy, more loving relationship. Below we share the concepts behind our conflict resolution and how we learned to fight better as a couple.
1. Attack the problem, not the person.
Your partner is not the enemy, in fact he (or she ) is the love of your life! Sure, he is late – again – but how did it happen? Is there a problem at work? Have you communicated how it makes you feel? Is there a way to solve this tardiness issue?
Frankly, an entire galaxy of problems can be solved with less drama if, instead of attacking the person, we shift our focus on the problem. It becomes more manageable when we address it as a team. In fact, this togetherness is essential to a healthy relationship.
2. Consider alternative interpretations of what offended you.
Do you honestly think that this person who has always made you tea on your hangover mornings and has given you the last slice of pizza every time will deliberately choose to upset or hurt you? The same guy who takes care of you when you are sick and does the dishes when you are tired? There has got to be an alternative reason behind whatever it is that irritates you. Ask, clarify, and talk before you marry your assumptions.
3. Out with it.
My youngest sister commented the other day that a Korean drama would save 30 episodes if half the characters were not lying pricks. Well, she is not wrong. Most of our problems, if not all of it, will be solved faster if we are truthful. But why are we not?
Because the truth is often painful and inconvenient. Unfortunately, being honest does not shield us and the people around us from from suffering. People will get hurt when it is time for them to get hurt, ourselves included.
But by being truthful and dealing with what is wrong, we give ourselves the chance to get over it and build a healthy relationship. Out with it is a far better strategy than letting a small wound fester and grow into a giant necrotic mess that will take nine lives to handle.
4. Let your guard down.
We resort to shouting, complaining, withdrawing, blaming, and controlling, when what we really need to do is accept and communicate that we are worried, insecure, and afraid of rejection or abandonment. It is fascinating how “I hate you” rolls off the tongue smoother than “I really need you right now”.
The next time you feel the need to fight, try to let your guard down with unfrightened honesty and reveal your fear that triggers the outburst. Do not be surprised if it turns out to be the best ‘fight’ of your life.
5. Charge it to charity.
At least sometimes. So a mountain of laundry magically appears bedside from time to time. Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? Is it truly a reason to love your partner less?
Also, remember that the love of your life has parts of his being that remains immature. While he fixes broken appliances, files your taxes, and throws the trash out every night, it is pretty much possible that he is still unable to place his socks on the laundry hamper. Accepting this fact is key to a healthy relationship, and preserving your sanity.
It is incredibly easy to be angry. What is hard is to admit why we are angry. Often, we use aggressiveness, passive- aggressiveness included, to mask our vulnerability.
We cannot expect our partner to be perfect, all the time, in every single aspect, in the same way that we are not, too. Being patient and more charitable certainly goes a long way. If we can laugh about it, at least sometimes, even better.
Finally, it is important to point out that talking about our problems, in varying decibels that suit the occasion, is preferable than constant bickering or grinding our teeth. Keeping it in, being passive-aggresive, or choosing to drag the matter is not the most loving thing to do. It will only make the situation worse. Just fight it off fairly and find peace.
How do you fight with your partner and maintain a healthy relationship? Please share your experiences with us, especially if you have been together for a long time. We would love to learn from you.