How we fight sometimes says more about us than how we got into a fight in the first place. Living a conflict-free life, especially with a loved one, sounds nice but in reality is impossible. Not only that, but it’s unhealthy.
Disagreements from time to time, if dealt with maturely and with the requisite kindness, can actually help to strengthen the bond between partners. And that’s not simply due to the makeup sex phenomenon, a theme so commonly mimed in sitcoms and romantic comedies.
Yes, fighting within a couple is normal. However, within each fight lies a potential minefield of insensitive comments and dirty tricks. Fights are only productive if done fairly. Here’s a list of seven dos and seven don’ts to keep in mind when entering a tiff to make sure you’re fighting fairly. Following these rules could be the difference between making up and sleeping on the couch.
1. Do: Listen to what your partner is saying
This kind of goes without saying. Literally. If your partner doesn’t feel like they’re being listened to, how do you expect him or her to listen to you?
1. Don’t: Mock what your partner says, or how he/she said it
While listening is a good idea, don’t listen just to get ammo for a sarcastic comeback. And if you’re one of those people who impersonates what your partner says in a dismissive/derisive tone, you definitely aren’t fighting to get anything accomplished, you’re just passive aggressive.
Next Page: Do: Be honest with your emotions →
2. Do: Be honest with your emotions
Sometimes just explaining calmly to the other person why something is bothering you can cut a fight’s time in half or more. Saying something like, “You really hurt my feelings when you forgot to call and let me know where you were,” is a lot more effective than screaming, “Where were you?!?!”
2. Don’t: Cry just because you can
If you’re legitimately driven to tears, there’s nothing you can do. But if you turn on your eye faucets at a moments notice to manipulate your partner, you’re just blackmailing someone emotionally.
3. Do: Treat your partner as a friend
It can be hard if a fight causes you to get angry, but you have to remember that the reason why you’re fighting is that you care about each other. If you didn’t care, you’d both just go your separate ways. Always treat your partner with respect, don’t resort to name-calling or cheap insults as a substitute for making a valid point based on logical reasoning.
3. Don’t: Blab about the fight to your friends
Sometimes it’s tempting to bitch about your loved one’s actions to a sympathetic ear, one you know will always back you up – regardless of whether you’re right or wrong. Don’t do it. If you let others in to a fight you have with your partner, your partner won’t trust that your private conversations are actually private, and he/she will feel like they’re being ganged up on. If you’re tempted to run to a friend and complain rather than work out the drama, then perhaps it’s time to think about moving on from that relationship.
Next Page: Do: Apologize whenever necessary →
4. Do: Apologize whenever necessary
Unless the fight is 100% the other person’s fault (like if you’ve just caught them cheating or stealing something from you), it doesn’t hurt to apologize, especially if the other person is willing to or has already apologized. It takes two to tango, and it takes two to fight. If one person always feels like they need to apologize, they’ll soon start to wonder why they’re always in the wrong and feel resentment. Part of compromise is giving up the idea that each fight has a clear winner and loser. People who fight that way often end up losing all around in the end.
4. Don’t: Apologize and take it back in the same breath
Nothing upsets another person more than saying something like, “I’m sorry I didn’t take your feelings into account, but …” Whatever is said after the word “but” is generally something that completely negates the apology. If you mean you’re sorry, say that you’re sorry and then end the sentence. Don’t apologize just so you can get a reciprocal apology.
5. Do: End the fight as soon as possible
If you’re in the middle of a fight and you see the finish line, it’s best just to let the fight end. Focus on positive words and new ideas for how the two of you will avoid fights like this in the future, without rehashing the same fight-worthy topics again and again out of boredom or spite.
5. Don’t: Walk out on a fight
Perhaps the most passive-aggressive fight tactic is the leave-the-room-and-slam-the-door maneuver. Even worse is when you leave the house or apartment where you’re fighting entirely for a cool off moment. If the other person still wants to talk and there’s a chance for things to work out, storming off is an immature move; something people do if they don’t want to make things right with the other person.
Next Page: Do: Give the yelling a rest →
6. Do: Give the yelling a rest
Even if your partner knows he or she is wrong, it’s impossible to want to make up with someone who’s screaming. It’s normal for your voice to raise an octave or two when you’re emotional, but try not to alarm your neighbors or your partner with a decibel level similar to a plane taking off.
6. Don’t: Go to sleep angry
Once it’s deemed okay to turn out the lights and sleep back-to-back (or one on the bed, one on the couch), it becomes easier and easier to end fights without really ending them. Soon there’s a multitude of unresolved issues bubbling under the surface of your relationship, liable to erupt at any time.
7. Do: Stand up for yourself
While much of this advice is about being a calmer, gentler fighter, by no means should you be a pushover. Part of fighting fair is being fair to yourself, and that means honestly conveying when you are upset and why. In the end, nobody wants to be with someone with no backbone.
7. Don’t: Fight dirty
When you’re with a person for a long time, you learn pretty much everything about them, good and bad. The key is to not hold onto the bad information and use it in the middle of a fight to throw the other person off. If you’re fighting, it’s not the time to bring up the substance abuse problems of your partner’s sibling or parent, or how everything would be better if they weren’t still unemployed. Picking at emotional scabs is something that you need to avoid if you want to sustain a loving relationship.
There you have it, seven dos and seven don’ts. We chose the number seven because it’s lucky, just like those of us lucky to be in a relationship where both parties fight fairly. Remember, some fighting is inevitable; it’s the couples that work through disagreements and get through quarrels unscathed that have the strongest, most long-lasting relationships.