No matter how much you and your partner have worked to build a strong and healthy relationship, arguments are bound to arise. Disagreements can be rooted in anything from finances to not getting the amount of attention that one needs from their partner. Sometimes, there can even be a few choice words thrown and a harsh judgment of character is presented to the point of no return. Here at Official, we want couples to stay together, not fall apart. As occasional arguments are inevitable, you and your partner must learn healthy skills to utilize while in a fight.
You may be asking yourselves, ‘Is there a correct way to fight?’. Lucky for you, the answer is yes. Unfortunately, this is not a subject that everyone [learns about during their first years of college?] is taught in First-Year Seminar, not unless you are taking a relationship course in Psychology. So where can you learn to fight healthily with your partner? Don’t worry, I am here to help.
Five ways that you and your partner can navigate conflict in a healthier, more productive manner.
1. Call a timeout
During an argument, one or both partners can fall into the fight, flight, or freeze mode. In psychology, fight or flight refers to an amount of energy that is produced from stress hormones to either fight or run from the stressor. According to Time Magazine, freeze mode “occurs when a person simply does not react at all, in hopes that the stressor loses interest in the fight.”
Fighting, running away, or just simply acting as if the situation is not there, does nothing to help resolve the issue. That is why it can be helpful, in these moments, to call a timeout and come back to the conversation once both partners are level-headed and able to speak to each other without harsh words or a hurtful tone.
2. Shy away from the cold shoulder
Although it is best to call timeout, don’t resort to giving your partner the cold shoulder-- this can do more harm than good. Instead, try to directly communicate your feelings to your partner. In a Good Housekeeping article, Dr. Goldman-Wetzler puts it like this: “Let them know the impact of the situation, or their behavior, on you. Then make a request about how you’d like things to happen in the future.” By communicating this, you show your partner that you hear their concerns and are looking towards how you will go about dealing with future disagreements.
3. Listen intently
Oftentimes, when having a heated discussion with your partner, it can be easy to tune out. This is not to say that you don’t hear what your partner is saying, but rather, you aren’t giving your partner the attention they deserve at that moment. It is best to listen intently to what your partner is saying and to ask follow-up questions for clarification once they have finished their thought.
Be sure that you are providing eye contact and that your body language is saying that you are giving your partner your full, undivided attention: this means, no phones or TV. During a fight, the focus should be on you and your partner and how you can work things out together.
4. Don’t become accusatory
Insults and character assassinations lead nowhere helpful in a fight with your partner. If an argument gets to that point, end the conversation and come back at a later time. It is essential to make sure that you don’t come across as accusatory because this can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. As an alternative, you can ask your partner why they are or aren’t doing something while maintaining a calm tone. You never know what they could be going through if you don’t ask. You know what they say about people who assume.
5. Apologize with meaning
Admitting when you are wrong is a feat within itself. Trust me, I know. However, it’s not enough to recognize that you have hurt your partner: you must apologize as well. If you’re not ready to apologize, then don’t say it. Your partner will be able to tell the difference between a fake apology and one that you truly mean, especially if your body language doesn’t match your voice. Take a look at my 5 Apology Languages blog post to learn more about the five components you need to have in order to apologize with sincerity.
An argument with your partner is not always a bad thing, it can show how much you truly love them and care about your relationship. However, the outcome of an argument is greatly dependent upon the actions made during the fight. . It is essential for you and your partner to learn how to navigate healthy arguments so that both parties can feel heard and a resolution can be had. No matter what, fight to stay together and remain official.