In about one week from today, my husband and I will be celebrating our one year wedding anniversary and eight total years together (!!!). Of course we are far from perfect, but I like to think that at this point I know a thing or two about relationships, including how to fight fair. In marriage- and really any relationship that involves two people- there will always be differences of opinion that will inevitably lead to conflict. It is how you deal with that conflict that can make or break the relationship. In this post, I’ll lay out a few helpful ground rules on how to fight fairly with your significant other so that you can learn to disagree in way that is healthy and productive.
1. Stay on topic: Now is not the time to bicker about everything and the kitchen sink. Don’t drudge up past mistakes and grudges out of anger. Leave the past where it is and move on, or you will only drive yourself crazy going around and around in circles. It will also only lead to your partner feeling ambushed and attacked by a laundry list of complaints. Keep your argument relevant to the topic at hand.
2. No score keeping: Remember that it’s not about “winning” an argument, and that keeping a running tally of your partner’s “losses” will inevitably create resentment. Relationships are all about compromise and the point of an argument is to come to a mutual understanding, not to debate one another’s flaws.
3. Avoid blanket statements: Along the same note, refrain from making black and white accusations like, “I ALWAYS clean the dishes, and you NEVER do them!” Think about what you’re saying, and if this is really true. Don’t blow things out of proportion.
4. Use “I” statements: Avoid making attacks on your significant other’s character by using “I” statements such as “When you [blank], I feel [blank]”. For example: “When you leave your dirty clothes all over the floor, I feel that I am being disrespected.” This way you avoid making accusations against your partner’s character (“you’re so messy and lazy”), but instead make it about how the actions affect feelings.
5. Identify the root of the issue: Before you launch into an argument, try to figure out what it is that’s truly bothering you. Is the problem that she spends too much time out with her friends, or is the real issue that you feel she isn’t making your relationship a priority? Remember it’s “not about the nail”; be honest with yourself about the underlying cause of your feelings. You should also take the time to think about what they could do/not do to fix the situation, and if that solution is realistic.
6. Don’t assume intent: You might think that your partner is purposefully doing something because they’re lazy/spoiled/like to make you mad, but they might be truly oblivious to the fact that their actions are causing you grief. Before you let small issues mushroom into one big argument, stop and ask them what’s going on. Let them explain their perspective and listen carefully.
7. Remember, you’re on the same team!: This one is a biggie, and unfortunately a lot of people forget about it. Keep in mind that the person you’re at odds with is also the person you are closest to, your partner and best friend in life. Instead of hurling insults with the intent to hurt, reframe the problem at hand. It’s not a battle of me vs. you, it’s us vs. the problem. Instead of fighting against each other, work together as a team to come to a resolution.
Dumplings, what are your tips for resolving conflicts in a relationship?
Also by Sarah: What Your Nails Say About Your Health
Photo: Raul Lieberwirth via Flickr