A successful partnership is not one in which a couple has found a way to avoid fights. Fighting actually if done well is actually a sign of a strong relationship. We can’t always agree on everything and it is healthy for partners to face and work through contentious issues. Here are ten ways for you and your partner to fight well:
Use a familiar term of endearment like a smile, a well-placed touch or reassuring voice even during the heat of battle. It allows each partner know that they can make it through this even after the end of the fight.
Speak less especially when you feel activated. More words can create misunderstanding or anger when a few words of reassurance was all that was needed.
Take a deep breath to calm your nervous system. It allows for a better judgment, patience, and a better chance of hearing and understanding your partner.
Build a secure relationship so that when you fight you know that there are no losers. Know that the relationship is not on the line when you fight. You are in it for the long haul, and you will be just fine after the dust settles.
Use a signal that you both know. Come up with it when not fighting. It could be a wink or nod that tells the other partner that we will make it through this.
Look into one another’s eyes within close proximity (no more than three feet apart). By doing so you can pick up on physical cues like moistness in the eyes or a hint of a smile that can bring you to calm.
Mutually agreed to time out. You both agree to take a break and return for repair in twenty to thirty minutes. This can hold off a defensive response (anger, withdrawal or stonewalling). Time way can help calm your nervous system and open you both to more empathy and understanding. Often if both partners feel that they are being heard and understood, there is less chance for escalation.
Stop holding grudges. If something is bothering you about your partner, find the time to share. Fighting well allows each partner to unload relationship issues in a non-threatening way and safeguards from building resentment and growing apart.
There are only winners, no losers. Negotiate an equitable settlement. Spend some time with each other to find a way so that both of your needs will be met: “OK, I will go to the party with you if you agree to go the action movie with me tomorrow.”
Don’t talk on the phone if possible or text if things start to heat up. If you can, wait until you are face-to-face before sharing. So much misunderstanding and confusion can result when partners try to work through by text, email or even phone calls. Much of what we communicate is non-verbal like softening of facial muscles, a smile or moist eyes. We miss on physical cues when not face-to-face, and we miss on an opportunity to de-escalate and return to understanding and attunement..