Can’t Stop Fighting? Learn Healthy Arguing

Does the exchange below bring back frustrating or damaging memories of past relationships?

“You’re so unbelievably lazy, would it kill you to put any effort into planning a date once in a while?”

“You know what? Maybe if you didn’t nag me all the time, I’d actually WANT to spend more time with you!”

“Okay so you don’t want to be with me? Break up with me then!”

Does it bring back memories of clashes with exes that left you swearing up and down to yourself that you’d never be in another relationship where you fought this much again? When we think of fighting, we automatically think of negativity.

We are reminded of the echoing sound of slammed doors or the bitter taste of insults hurling off our tongue or the swollen feeling of tear-drenched cheeks. But in reality, fighting isn’t always a bad thing.

Let’s look at the same exchange a little deeper:

“You’re so unbelievably lazy, would it kill you to put any effort into planning a date once in a while?”

(It makes me feel unappreciated when I’m always the one making the plans and arranging dates)

“You know what? Maybe if you didn’t nag me all the time, I’d actually WANT to spend more time with you!”

(It sometimes feels like nothing I do is good enough for you, and it’s making me feel inadequate and resentful)

“Okay so you don’t want to be with me? Break up with me then!”

(It hurts me when I feel like you don’t want to spend time together and makes me want to shut down)

When you think about it, people fight because they care. It sounds contradictory, but when you’re fighting with your partner, you’re fighting because you feel there is something worth salvaging in the relationship. Something there worth fighting for. It’s when the love for the other person begins to dim that the fighting begins to dim as well. So don’t be afraid of fighting with your partner. It’s just a different type of communication and it’s normal to not agree on everything. It isn’t a matter of if you fight, or how much you fight, but how you fight. That said, it is easy for fighting to turn toxic and, in turn, unproductive.

Tips To Healthy Fighting

Below are some tips on how to make sure your conflict with your partner can be an opportunity to pull you closer together, not push you apart.

1. Don’t avoid or downplay the issue.

The longer feelings such as hurt or anger sit with you, the more resentment will build up. Even if you avoid bringing up the core issue with your partner, or try to convince yourself it isn’t as big of a deal as you’re making it, your feelings are your feelings. They’re not just going to disappear. That feeling of resentment is just going to manifest in other ways, whether it’s snapping at your partner for not washing the dishes or picking a fight about whose apartment you chose to stay at that night. You won’t be able to completely avoid a conversation about the issue, you’ll just be putting it off and inevitably end up creating more conflict in the process.

2. Be curious about your partner’s perspective.

Remind yourself that this is someone you love and trust. Someone whose opinion you value on most things in life. It is so easy to fall into the “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality when we’re fighting, but remember that these feelings, while they may differ from yours, are valid and real to your partner, simply because they are experiencing them. So be curious about where these feelings stem from, what actions or words sparked them? How long have those feelings been stewing?

3. Take accountability for your contribution to the fight.

Own up to where you went wrong, to what poor word choice you used or what selfish decision you may have made. Taking accountability doesn’t mean anything you might still be upset about becomes invalid, but without accountability there can be no change.

4. Don’t bring up the past.

Don’t keep score. Bringing up things from the past is not only unproductive, but it is a defense mechanism that invalidates the present issue and what your partner’s feelings. So don’t mention that time they didn’t show up to your parent’s New Year’s party, just as you wouldn’t want them to mention that time that you spoiled the end of Game of Thrones for them while you were fighting.

5. Listen to your partner.

Imagine how you would want your partner to listen to you. Now be that person for them. Don’t interrupt, don’t get defensive, look them in the eye and validate what they are saying.

6. Express your feelings, don’t attack.

Start your sentences with “I feel…”. When we begin our sentences with an accusation or insult, i.e: “You always…” or “You never…”, it can easily come off as an attack. An attack is always going to be met with a defense, and you won’t be able to move forward.

7. Set boundaries, and respect them.

Setting boundaries for a fight can look like: “It is not okay when you curse at me” or “If you raise your voice at me, I will leave the room”. Stick to your own boundaries and make sure you are listening to the ones your partner sets as well.

8. Take a break.

Take time to cool down if needed. If you notice things get heated, you’re going around in circles, or that it generally feels unproductive, suggest you take 15 minutes, an hour, or the whole evening off. Then revisit the conversation when you both have had a chance to clear your head.