One thing that all couples have in common is that they fight from time to time. However, it is the way couples argue that determines whether they will make it in the long run.
The good news is that most couples can learn to fight ‘right’, and can even transform arguments to tools that enrichen their relationship. Dr. Stan Tatkin author of Wired For Love has created some great points in his book about fighting fair and has helped inform some of my tips below.
So the next time an argument is bubbling, here are my top tips to fight right and make your relationship better along the way.
1. Diffuse when you can
We shouldn’t try to avoid all fights, but there is nothing wrong with nipping the unnecessary ones in the bud. The best way to avoid war is to quickly wave the flag of friendliness, which can be done with a warm smile, well-placed touch or a reassuring voice.
2. Don’t sweep things under the rug
Don't shy away from discussing topics that could be swept under the rug. When a topic remains unaddressed, they can become bigger issues than if they would have been addressed in the first place.
3. Don’t say things you will regret
When we are in the midst of a fight, we switch into flight-or-fight mode and suddenly we can find ourselves hurling hurtful remarks and insults. If you feel like you are no longer in control of your emotions and that you are getting carried away in the heat of the moment, just simply stop speaking. Realise that you are saying things that are not helping resolve the issue, and even tell your partner so, “I’m sorry, I’m making this worse”. By pausing and stopping what you are saying, you are moving away from a potential mine field.
4. Take a time out
Research suggests that if an argument has gone on for more than three minutes, it is too long – you are not having a conductive argument anymore. So take a time out – go for a walk for example to calm yourself down – and give each other 20 minutes apart to let your bodies reset, before you try to resolve the argument. Note, that it is important that you both agree to the time out, so one party does not feel abandoned, and it is vital that you return to resolve it.
5. Face each other during the fight
Make sure that you are looking into each other’s eyes when you’re in the midst of the argument. If you’re not looking at each other – for instance, if the fight is taking place in a car or if you’re talking over the phone – you are missing vital clues from your partner’s body language and expression, which means you could misinterpret what they are saying. For similar reasons, don’t fight over text or email as you can’t read each other’s tone, intention or feeling. By missing these vital clues, minor disputes can easily explode into full-blown arguments.
6. Aim for a win-win solution
The couples who fight successfully seek an outcome that allows both partners to be winners – which is easier said than done, as we don’t view things the same way as our partners all the time. Hence, why we got into the argument in the first place! However, by setting the goal of a win-win outcome, you are putting both of your energies into negotiating a solution that feels meaningful and worth wile for both of you.
7. Don’t hold a grudge
For couples who want to make the distance, avoiding and maintaining grudges is important. If you or your partner keeps bringing up an old issue, chances are the issue was never resolved in the first place in a satisfactory way for both parties. So instead of saying ‘Why are you bringing that up again?’, solve it once and for all with an outcome that both of you will be happy with it. That way, you transform bad memories into good memories.
Warning: Any reference made to "fights" or "arguments" in this blog refers to every day differences between a couple. If you are in a relationship with Domestic Violence it is very different and you need to get help or get out of the relationship. Here is some explanations about what is domestic violence and where to get help at ReachOut.com or Queen of Hearts Foundation in the Penrith area.
For more tips, daily quotes and information about love, dating, relationships and happiness visit my Facebook page Melissa Ferrari - Psychotherapist & Relationship Expert. Also available is information about couple therapy and how it can help your relationships.