We constantly hear that fighting is normal and relationship fights can be very healthy. But does every couple really need to fight?
Here’s what I think: it’s healthy to disagree. It’s normal to argue about said disagreements. Conflict – whether it’s from communication issues, hurt feelings, or unintentional mistakes – is something that every couple certainly has to deal with on occasion, and they can indeed lead to a stronger, more understanding relationship.
However, the word fighting has a negative connotation and is typically used in situations where the emphasis is on winning.
In our view, the emphasis should never be on winning but on learning, understanding, listening, and growing together through your problems, concerns, insecurities, flaws, and temporary setbacks.
Fighting – when one or both parties are trying to “win” – usually results in unproductive, loud, convoluted arguments where both parties end up actually losing by feeling worse than they did when they started the conversation. Nothing is more understood, nothing feels fully resolved, and ultimately, no one is happy.
So how do you stop, or at least decrease, your relationship fights? Keep reading for the 15 rules and reminders that have significantly helped us throughout the years and have now made us (nearly) fight-proof:
When John and I used to fight, it typically went something like this:
– Partner A would get annoyed or upset about something.
– Partner A would inform Partner B about how s/he feels.
– Partner B would immediately get defensive and try to explain her/himself
– Partner A would then get upset at the defensiveness and get even more heated
– It would all go downhill from there.
Once the communication was broken and we were no longer just discussing the initial issue, the conversation would turn messier than it needed to be, making it even more frustrating, even more heated, and into an even bigger fight.
Soooooo unnecessary, right?!
Well, we learned ways to combat these issues, step by step, reminder by reminder. We don’t always get it right, but we haven’t had a major fight in months, so something is surely working. And it’s not that we’ve just stopped talking about what is bothering us either. Everything is still on the table. We’ve just learned not to make mountains out of molehills.
So here is everything we now do to maintain our fight-proof status:
1. We agree that only one person can be upset at a time.
2. We validate each other’s feelings.
3. We do not group issues. We focus on one issue at a time.
4. We don’t loop in past mistakes or overgeneralize (i.e., “you always do this”).
5. We prioritize mutual understanding over winning.
6. We ask questions before making assumptions.
7. We listen, pause, and think about what the other partner is actually trying to communicate.
8. We avoid giving immediate pushback or a defense, remembering, again, that the goal is not to win.
9. We give ourselves and each other space and time to process if need be.
10. We take a step back if we feel heated, calm ourselves down, and continue the conversation when ready.
11. We “sleep on it” if need be. We know it’s actually okay to go to bed still upset or confused if either of us needs time to process something.
12. We focus on the intentions of the “accused” party. We acknowledge the fact that, regardless of what s/he did, our partner was not trying to hurt us.*
13. We give each other the benefit of the doubt.
14. We sit close to each other, face each other, look each other in the eyes, and even try to maintain physical contact.
15. We remember why we are with our partner in the first place.
*If you have constantly been fighting every day, or there are any signs of emotional, verbal, sexual, or physical abuse involved, please don’t hesitate to seek help from a licensed therapist or consider ending the relationship safely.
So there you have it. 15 reminders we actually follow in our own relationship to help us avoid fighting while still addressing disagreements and handling conflict in a healthy manner.
What are your thoughts on fighting in relationships? Do you have any additional reminders that help in your relationship? Comment below if so!
Loving the old; exploring the new,