Fighting is part of any relationship. In some ways, you can’t grow as a couple if you don’t fight. No two person are born alike, and it is only natural that we should face some conflict in the process of finding out more about who we are, what we mean to each other and ultimately, how we are prepared to change in order to understand and help each other.
Not every fight or argument results in a healthier relationship. There are fights which lead to greater understanding, commitment and love between a couple, but there are also fights which signal the end of a relationship.
Why Do Couples in a Healthy Relationship Fight?
In a relationship, arguments and fights are rarely about winning or losing. In reality, they are a way for us to work on the weakest parts of our relationships. Even though they may seem obvious, the underlying causes of an argument can usually be related to more universal issues.
For example, arguments about money are usually about power, those about work could be about time spent together, fights about relatives can often be traced back to expectations, jealousy and unfaithfulness have more to do with maturity and trust than with a specific 3rd party and fights over household chores and responsibilities may be more about fairness and responsibility than anything else.
So fighting and arguing, even when they seem to be triggered by an inconsequential event, are a way for us to confront these issues and to work out our feelings, assumptions, expectations and ultimately our solutions to them.
However, learning how to fight in a constructive way ultimately determines whether or not your relationship can emerge stronger and better from this process.
How to Fight Constructively
1. It’s Not about Winning
When you fight with your partner, it shouldn’t be about winning or losing. If the purpose of fighting in a relationship is to work out the kinks in your relationship, then fighting is about finding a solution to an emotionally charged problem.
Think of how to solve the problem in a way which makes both of you happy. Compromising is not a sign that you’ve “lost”, if you work together and try to understand the real issue behind all the emotion, you have a better chance of coming out of this positively.
2. Stick to the Point
It’s easy to get distracted in a fight. Old hurts and unresolved issues often make “guest appearances” and sometimes we feel that we are not having new arguments, but old ones all over again. If this is happening, try to address your initial problem first. Be clear about what you are upset about right now and try to resolve that issue first.
Later on, you should take some time to understand why some hurts and unhappinesses never quite seem to go away. They are likely to be symptoms of a bigger issue. When you are calmer, try to work your way through these together. If they keep cropping up, they are probably more complex and will need more time for you to understand and resolve.
3. Try Empathy
Be understanding. Don’t try to have a difficult discussion at the end of a long day when your partner has come home and is exhausted and just wants to veg out on the couch.
Try to understand your partner’s state of mind and how they may be feeling. Being kind and understanding can go a long way towards preventing your argument from turning into an all-out knock-down boxing match.
4. Take a Moment
When you are angry and frustrated, take a few moments to calm down. It takes just seconds to say something hurtful but once it’s out there, it stays between you for a lifetime. Try not to make damaging personal comments, and definitely refrain from getting physical in an argument.
The brain does funny things. When you are stressed or angry, you may not hear what’s really being said. What you hear instead is a replay in your mind of your worst case scenario, or a confirmation of all the negative qualities you think your partner has.
Before you react to a comment, take a moment to replay what your partner just said and check it against what you think you heard, or what you assume they are likely to have said. Take the time to ask your partner to clarify what they might have said, you might be surprised at how different it could be from what you thought you just heard.
All couples fight, it’s a part of growing up and growing together in the relationship.
Don’t view fights as a win or lose situation, think of them as a tool to help you identify the weakest parts of your relationship and a way for you to work out a solution together.
Don’t let your fights become destructive. Follow the 5 ground rules to fighting; it’s not about winning, stick to the point, try empathy, take a moment and listen.