When disagreeing with your partner, do you fight fair or do you aim directly below the belt? When I get mad I go straight for the silent treatment and I walk around the house huffing and puffing and slamming doors. It took me a while, but I finally realized that this behavior wasn’t productive and wasn’t getting me the response I wanted. It only prolonged the drama and made me miserable. I also realized that when you don’t handle your disagreements in a constructive way, you end up having the same fight over and over.
The key for me was recognizing and taking responsibility for my role in disagreements. I had to acknowledge my flaws and use that as context when I get upset. I can be very stubborn and I have a tendency to take everything personal. This knowledge about myself is the lens through which I look at things. Those are my issues and have nothing to do with the other person so before I fly completely off the handle I have to ask myself “is it really that serious?” Most of the time, it’s not.
Another thing I learned about myself is that I fight dirty. I go for the jugular so I don’t risk the other person getting the better of me. No one wants to be vulnerable but the reality is, this is just not acceptable behavior in a loving relationship. And, it says that you’re more concerned about getting your point across and being right than about actually working things out in your relationship. Once you say things in the heat of an argument, they’re out there and you can’t undo it.
I realized that petty arguments wear you down and chip away at the relationship. The energy you put into fighting about every little thing is energy you should be putting into strengthening your relationship and building a future together.
There is going to be fighting and disagreements in a relationship and that can be healthy to a certain extent. If you’re not happy with something, you should always be free to express that. There is nothing wrong with having standards and expectations in a relationship but be sure you’re not setting a bar that you aren’t even prepared to meet.
My mother always says you have to pick your battles. Ask yourself if, in the grand scheme of things, is this issue really worth the drama? If you feel it is, then fine. Prepare for battle. But, you always have to fight fair.
Take a moment and assess your own feelings. Are you angry? Hurt? Disappointed? What specifically made you feel that way? Really knowing your true feelings is the first step to handling the situation in a productive manner.
Understand that anger is a natural emotion. When it comes to feelings, there is no right or wrong. Never tell someone how to feel or that their feelings are wrong. What may be wrong is the action you take as a result of those feelings.
The goal should not be to “win” a fight. It’s a relationship, not a competition. The focus should be negotiation and compromise.
Take a time-out to calm down and get perspective. This will allow you to identify the issue more clearly and organize your thoughts. You can reflect on why you feel the way you do and how to best express yourself. Try to consider the other person’s feelings and perspective. Think things through before you speak.
Pick an appropriate time and place. In the morning when you’re trying to get ready for work or as soon as your partner walks in the door is not the time to pounce.
Explain the issue honestly, clearly and specifically and make sure both of you have the chance to express thoughts and feelings.
Deal with the issue at hand. Don’t use one disagreement as an opportunity to drag out everything your partner has ever done. I like the 30 day rule. If you don’t address an issue with 30 days, then you forfeit your right to be angry about it.
Keep it above the belt. No name-calling or threats and don’t use your knowledge of your partner’s weaknesses and sensitivities as ammo. Don’t involve the opinions of others and don’t make comparisons to other people or situations.
Skip the game playing. When you are not being honest about your feelings or about what you want or need in a situation you’re only doing more damage. Turning yourself in to a martyr or pulling the “if you really loved me…” card will get you nowhere. As I mentioned before, I’m infamous for giving the silent treatment but playing those kinds of games lets a small issue turn your household into a war zone.
Take responsibility for your feelings and actions. Use “I’ statements as opposed to “you” statements which place blame and cause defensiveness. Stay away from exaggerations like “always” and “never” which can also put your partner on the defensive.
Don’t be afraid to apologize. “I’m sorry” can go so far and sometimes that’s all it takes.
Think “Vegas”. What happens in your relationship stays in your relationship. Your friends, sister or even your mom don’t need to know about your fights. It’s none of their business and you don’t need their thoughts and opinions getting all jumbled up with yours.
Most of all learn from your fight. Turn it into an opportunity for growth and understanding in your relationship and then everyone wins.