Are you wondering how to stop fighting with your partner? Has the frequency and the intensity of your fighting grown over time? Do you want to stop fighting so that you can find your way back to each other?
Conflict. We all have it.
We get angry with our mothers, our friends, our bosses, and our kids. It is our partners, those we have chosen to love and cherish for a lifetime, with whom we seem to get the angriest. And this conflict, this anger, with our partners can be very destructive and get in the way of living the life of our dreams.
There are ways to get through conflict, however, and it is way easier than one would think.
1. Carefully choose the time to talk.
This is key.
If you talk to your partner when you are angry, you will say things that you might not mean to say. Words said in the heat of the moment tend to cause a lot of pain and not necessarily be accurate.
Try to wait at least two hours after a disturbance before speaking up. This will give you the chance to calm down and speak more clearly. If you can talk calmly about exactly what you are upset about, then you will be more likely to be able to work it out and not let the quarrel escalate.
Also, don’t pick a known stressful time to talk, like during bedtime or just after work. Try to pick a time when you are both calm and can approach the conversation with good energy instead of bad. I know calm time can be hard to find but when properly motivated you can find it.
2. Do not attack.
This is very important and something that many of us do without thinking. And it gets us nowhere.
Let’s say that your partner is always getting home from work late. Instead of saying, “You are always late. Why do you have to be such a jerk?” try saying “It makes me sad when you are always home late from work. I work hard to get us all together for a family dinner and I really miss it when you aren’t there.”
Look carefully at the difference here. If you use the first example, your partner will immediately get on the defensive and the conversation will be over before it begins. In the second example, you are sharing how you FEEL, and no one can argue with how you FEEL. And how you feel is the truth.
What is not the truth is that your partner is a jerk for coming home late.
3. Make sure they know you are listening.
This is very hard to do and can feel very contrived, but it is a key part of listening and being heard.
It’s called a reflective response.
In the case of the example above with the partner who didn’t come home in time for dinner, the perfect response for them to say would be: “I am sorry that my being late for dinner made you so sad.” With that statement, you know that your partner has understood what you are trying to say, and that might deflate the argument.
The worst thing that you can do is to yell back at them or storm out, not letting them speak and get their feelings out. Because if you do that, the issue will come up again, over and over and over.
4. Try to remember that we are all only human.
We all make mistakes. More often than not, our troublesome actions are not a reflection of our feelings about someone but are the result of a variety of things (time, motivation, energy level, distractions) that all work together and create a situation that isn’t ideal.
A client of mine’s husband came home on Saturday without picking out the windows that he promised her he would pick out. She was furious and said something like, ”If you loved me, you would have picked out the windows.”
The reality was that his mother had called when he was on his way and he had to run over to help her with something. Yes, it’s not ideal, but it is the reason why he couldn’t do what she had asked, not because he didn’t love her.
Next time you are quick to react to something your partner does, take a moment to try to figure out why it happened. Perhaps you won’t need the two hours to decompress after all.
5. Be ready to say sorry and to forgive.
This can be the hardest thing of all for people—to say they are sorry and to forgive perceived wrongs—but it is one of the most important parts of any relationship.
Why don’t we want to say we are sorry? Because it will convey weakness? Because we can’t let go of our anger? Because we are embarrassed by our actions?
Whatever the reason, we need to learn how to do it. Next time you are having a disagreement with your partner, try apologizing. See how quickly the anger deflates on both sides.
With the husband who came home late, he should start with, “I am sorry that my lateness made you sad.” That is apologizing not for the lateness but for the pain his wife suffered from it.
What shouldn’t be said is, “I am sorry that my lateness made you sad BUT I couldn’t help it.” In an apology, a BUT makes the apology completely ineffective. The BUT means you are making an excuse. The reality is that you caused pain, no matter the reason, and that needs to be acknowledged.
In the same vein, we need to forgive and not hold onto anger. Holding on to anger is one of the most destructive forces in any relationship. If your partner apologizes for his or her actions, you need to find it in your heart to remember that they are only human and that they have taken responsibility for their actions and that life must move forward.
Learning how to stop fighting with your partner is a key part of keeping your relationship happy.
Conflict, and the resulting anger, with anyone can be devastating and especially so with a partner. Left unchecked anger can take on a life of it’s own and destroy everything in its path.
Don’t let that happen to you. Try to carefully choose your time to talk. Don’t attack. Let them know you are listening and don’t hold on to the anger. And then, perhaps, you can settle down to a nice peaceful, conflict-free evening.
Sounds worth it, no?