Love would be easy, or easier, if it weren't for the arguments and resentments that build up over time. But conflict is a given in any relationship, and the solution isn’t winning an argument — it’s learning how to fight fair and with love.
Here's the difference: When you fight to win, you get wrapped up in who's right and who's wrong. Your strategy is in service of yourself. You keep tally of past wrongs, missteps, and hurts. You go for the jugular with unkind words. You start to care more about your pride or your power than about your relationship. Fighting to win is the biggest mistake couples can make. It's also the most common, especially when in the midst of a passionate argument.
Fighting to love puts the focus on the relationship. Instead of getting sucked into the tornado of your own hurt, you take a step back and realize your relationship is only as strong as your partner is happy. Like healthy sex, healthy fighting is about finding an approach that leaves both people satisfied.
Of course, it wouldn't be called conflict if it were meant to be enjoyable. However, there are some tried-and-true methods to make sure your fighting is productive, rather than destructive.
Bottling It Up Can Lead to an Explosion
The most deceptively simple practice is to avoid the buildup of anger, resentment, or negative thoughts about your partner in the first place. Many times, couples fall into the "my partner is a mind reader" way of thinking, expecting each other to know what is on their minds, which paves the way for those little fights over nothing. You haven't gone out to dinner in weeks, but instead of asking, you mope or complain to your friends! He thinks you spend too much time at the office, and so he ignores you when you get home — instead of correcting the sense of detachment by planning some quality time together!
Rather than hoping for telepathic communication, you have one of two options: Either bring up what's bothering you or let it go. Even if you have discussed the very same issue or behavior before, by not giving him the opportunity to discuss the problem, you remain in a vicious cycle of resentment and misunderstanding. Likewise, if you do decide to keep quiet and forgo a confrontation, you must not hold a grudge! Adding to your list of "what drives me crazy about my partner" does nothing but get you deeper and deeper into the divide. You are in control of your expression: Make it clear what you need and let your partner know when you feel things are slipping.
Practice Authentic Communication
When you do make your complaints known, start your statements with "I feel" instead of any sentence beginning with "You." Take responsibility for your feelings, asking clearly for what you need from your partner and taking care to respond to his cues. Try not to focus on what you want to happen. If your partner has a tendency to stonewall or get exasperated, walk away temporarily. Also, remember that pleading with him to talk to you when he doesn't want to is a losing game. Try approaching him later, preferably within a few hours, to set up a time to discuss it. This is also a good technique for fights that have spun out of control, since it cuts down on those impulsive, hurtful words that can never be taken back.
The point is that fighting should always be about what's best for your relationship, instead of what's best for you as an individual. Your relationship is not a battleground. It should be your safe haven.
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