Disagreements are bound to occur in any long-term relationship. As individuals, you won’t always see eye-to-eye with your partner, despite your best efforts.
Although you may think of lover’s quarrels as the opposite of romantic, your relationship can actually benefit from arguments if appropriately handled. By understanding how to fight the right way and focusing on constructive communication instead of combat, an argument provides the opportunity for growth and development for a couple.
Plan to fight (the healthy way)
It seems counterintuitive to plan to fight with your partner, but that’s precisely how you can prevent a slight misunderstanding from taking a wrong turn in the future. Sit down with your spouse when you are both calm and open-minded to outline your needs and pain points before the next heated moment hits. Approach the conversation in a curious manner (not confrontational) when you are both in a good mood and see where it goes!
Understand each other’s triggers
Everyone has their triggers. You know the ones — your personal Achilles’ heel that really sets you off when provoked, causing you to catapult from zero to full-on Hulk angry in 5 seconds flat.
While you’re both relaxed and conflict-free, take the opportunity to outline what habits set each of you off. Share with your partner how this behavior makes you feel to help them better understand you and your feelings.
By understanding your partner’s personal triggers in order to avoid them in the heat of the moment and find a different approach, you are prioritizing your partner and your relationship for smoother communication and long-term success.
Timing is everything
After years of social interactions, most people learn to adapt their communication style and mannerisms based on their environment. But often, when tension arises, your ability to play nice and accommodate others (e.g., our partner) gets chucked out the window as soon as your natural defenses kick in.
Discuss with your partner how and when you are most productive (and not combative) in a disagreement. You may like to talk things out immediately, while your partner needs to think before speaking. Something (or, in this case, someone) has to give if you’re looking to avoid escalating the situation.
Determine when you and your spouse can be calm and receptive to discuss whatever topic needs review; do not force the debate if one or both partners need a break. Avoid sensitive conversations during stressful and busy moments. This never ends well!
By understanding and respecting each other’s needs, you can hopefully avoid unnecessary conflict during an already stressful dialogue.
Figure out what resolution you each need
To move past any disagreement successfully, each partner must walk away feeling good about the resolution. Of course, this may look different to you than it does to your partner. Just as you are more receptive to building emotional connections using your preferred love languages, you must also find the ideal method to settle arguments with your partner.
Do you need to find a compromise or a solution to move on? Or do you simply need to feel understood and your feelings validated? Talk through your conflict resolution needs to ensure you can leave any bitter feelings behind and find an outcome you are both happy with.
Fight together, not against each other
“Let’s not forget it’s you and me vs. the problem … Not you vs. me.” -Steve Maraboli
When the inevitable fight occurs, remember that you and your partner are always on the same team. By focusing on understanding your partner and working together, your occasional riffs can actually leave you feeling closer once settled.
Listen with an open mind
Effective communication has little to do with talking and everything to do with active listening. Each partner should keep an open mind (and open ears) as their loved one is speaking.
Take advantage of your listening time by trying to understand your partner’s perspective. Practice empathy using self-reflection to put yourself in their shoes and recognize your part in the misunderstanding. Ask questions, but avoid interruptions or dismissing their feelings.
Whatever you do, avoid getting defensive when your partner expresses concerns. Your turn to share will come.
When it is your turn to speak, use the opportunity to communicate your feelings in a calm, respectful manner. Instead of placing the blame on your partner, explain your case from your point of view, and don’t make assumptions about your partner’s intentions. You know what happens when you assume …
Speak as calmly as possible and always steer clear of harsh language and name-calling. If the conversation gets heated or hostile, take a break to allow everyone time to cool off.
Remember, this is a conversation, not a battle. Keep that in mind during the discussion, no matter who is speaking.
Seek to resolve, not to win
As your disagreement winds down, be sure you each walk away feeling good about the outcome.
Look for areas of agreement or compromise and use these opportunities to bridge the gap between your viewpoints. Try to address the underlying issues causing the disagreement and brainstorm solutions that satisfy both of your needs.
Acknowledge your spouse’s perspective, even if you don’t agree with it entirely. Outline takeaways for each of you to avoid repeat disputes in the future. Recall what type of resolution each of you seeks after a disagreement and do your best to ensure you meet your partner’s needs.
Remain present in the discussion with the intent of explanation and understanding, not winning or losing. You both win when you find a resolution you’re both happy about.
Apologize when appropriate
If one of you was in the wrong or behaved poorly during the argument, be sure to reassure your partner by apologizing and taking responsibility for your part. Practice forgiveness and don’t hold grudges; the goal is to move forward together, not hold on to the past.
Remember that everyone (and every couple) makes mistakes; what matters is how you resolve the issue together and use the opportunity to strengthen your relationship.
Planning for the future
The best way to prevent misunderstandings and arguments in the future is to prioritize your bond with your partner.
Keep up the effective communication after the discussion is over. Discuss your daily triumphs and frustrations to maintain your connection. When things don’t go perfectly, don’t let it linger. Avoiding conflict at the moment may just cause minor annoyances to accumulate over time, resulting in a significant blowout down the road over a minor offense.
Make your relationship a priority for both of you. Set aside time to date your spouse or participate in a romance challenge to rekindle the romance. Compliment your partner and be affectionate when the mood strikes. Studies have also shown that all those feel-good hormones produced by a healthy sexual relationship can reduce the tendency to argue. It’s worth a try, right?
Every couple fights sometimes
I still remember the first actual fight JB and I had as a couple. We had been together for over a year already, and despite the occasional misunderstanding, we’d never had a real fight fight. But then we got stranded at home in a snowstorm (in Texas, yes!) for a week with four kids. Tensions got high, there was an incident with a small kitchen appliance, and BOOM!
It’s funny to think back now and wonder, “How the heck did we let an instant pot be the thing to finally get between us?” — but it did, because we are human. We each have our imperfect moments, communication breaks down, and tempers flare.
While we still have the occasional fight, what we’ve learned now after many years together is that something else is always going on under the surface. Someone is tired and sensitive or in a bad mood or just not in the right mindset to tackle the issue at hand. Regardless of the reason, we now know each other well enough to use each disagreement to address the underlying problem and work through it together.
Of course, these fantastic revelations may not occur until after we let a few insults fly or have to take a seriously long time out. Hey, we’re not perfect!
Fight for a healthy relationship
“The best relationship is where yesterday’s fight didn’t stop today’s communication.” -Anonymous
While arguing with your romantic partner may seem like something to avoid, it can actually facilitate growth and collaboration for a couple. By using disagreements as an opportunity to better understand your partner through honest, respectful communication, you can build a healthier relationship over the long term.
Now that’s something worth fighting for.
How do you and your partner avoid heated fights when you don’t see eye-to-eye? What tricks have you found to ease tension at the moment or prevent fights altogether? We would love to hear your tips in the comments!