They say that death and taxes are the only things certain in life, but conflict and arguments in a relationship also fit the bill.
There’s no way around it — we always end up hurting the ones we love (unintentionally). Still, this doesn’t have to hurt your ability to have a healthy relationship.
Though it can have negative implications, fighting about relationship problems is not the beginning of the end.
In fact, there is a certain authenticity to an emotional brawl that helps reveal values and set boundaries when those values have been compromised.
In fact, fighting is proof that relationships are alive and intimacy is present!
So, perhaps, fighting actually leads to healthy relationships.
This isn’t to say that all fighting and arguing are helpful to a relationship. Slamming doors, name-calling, tossing clothes from the bedroom window onto the front lawn while the neighbors take pictures for Instagram — none of that is conducive to the happily ever after.
Instead, there are methods to fight for the health of your relationship rather than its defeat.
Here are 7 effective communication tips to make sure your relationship rises above your conflict.
1. Fight for the relationship
When two people fight, the biggest mistake they make is fighting to one-up each other, to win, and to be claimed the champion as the imaginary ref holds your arm in the air in victory.
But this doesn’t work.
The reason it fails is that a partnership isn’t a competition — it’s not a game, not a match, and not something where someone is declared the “winner”.
It’s a union, an even field full of give and take, gains and losses, where the two of you are, ultimately, on the same team fighting for goals — to be heard, respected, seen, or connected.
Remember this when you fight and put your energy towards the relationship’s triumph, rather than your own.
2. No name-calling
Name-calling is a natural part of anger. But, using too much French will all but assure you won’t be kissing that way.
Labeling someone is dangerous for two reasons. First of all, it puts that person on the defense. Calling someone a douche will always elicit the “I’m not a douche!” response (and, perhaps, a Facebook poll where friends are asked to rate said person’s douchebaggery).
The other reason it’s dangerous is because it limits your ability to see that person in any other light.
If you call your boyfriend a selfish POS too often, you’ll see him as being one, even when he clearly isn’t. All his actions and words will be filtered through the label and he’ll always be seen as guilty until proven innocent in your eyes.
3. Learn how to listen without interjecting
Part of the problem with fighting is that it fails to allow people to listen to each other, really listen to each other. One way to avoid this is to repeat the other person’s view back to them better than they are able to articulate it themselves.
Doing this before you try to persuade, convince, or state your side of things is helpful in making sure there is no compromise in communication.
Once your partner hears their view or stance articulated by you, they’ll feel understood. And from this place of understanding, defenses drop and they’ll be far more open to hearing your side of things.
4. Get off being right
In the middle of an argument, it’s easy to dismiss everything your partner is saying, sometimes even when you know that they speak the truth.
After all, you’re fighting and stopping to agree with them may seem like it diminishes your stance or puts you in a position of weakness. But, it can also be helpful.
Acknowledging that someone is right instantly disarms them because that’s what most people are fighting for, to be right.
This act, in and of itself, is respectful and could be the very move that shifts the dynamic from a fight to a discussion.
5. Touch each other
The idea of two people having animalistic sex in the middle of an argument may be more akin to Hollywood than real life. But, touching each other during an argument can keep things from spiraling out of control.
Physical touch knocks down psychological barriers and makes it easier to come to some sort of agreement of a shared vision. It’s also a disarming tactic because people like to be touched.
It’s only human to feel soothed when someone holds your hand or embraces you.
6. Mean it when you apologize
Apologizing merely to end a fight is like putting a band-aid on a fresh wound without disinfecting it.
Instead, only apologize because you mean it and you see something that you did wrong, that you can fix, or that you can take responsibility for.
Otherwise, your apology will be empty, watery eyes full of crocodile tears. And the issue — whatever issue you fake apologized for — will just rear its ugly head again someday.
7. Make new commitments
Fighting is only healthy when it truly fixing something when it resolves an issue that has hung over your relationship like a dark cloud.
If it fails to do this, it’s like drinking non-alcoholic beer: what’s the point?
Making a plan on how to move forward and create new commitments to live into, on the other hand, can help assure your fighting wasn’t in vain.
So, here’s an important piece of relationship advice: sit down with each other, listen to what each other needs, and discuss how you can do things differently moving forward.
This will assure that you do just that — move forward with a more solid relationship.