Arguments are an inevitable part of any relationship. They are even healthy for your relationship if done well. No matter how happy you are, there will always be issues on which you and your partner don’t see eye to eye. Addressing these issues, rather than ignoring them or pretending they don’t exist, is a crucial part of developing and maintaining a healthy relationship.
Many of us learned poor communication patterns from our parents’ way of fighting, and unlearning these lessons can be difficult, particularly if they are already established within our relationship. Creating strong communication patterns isn’t always easy, but it is the best thing you can do for your mental health and your relationship.
This means you have to change the way you argue.
Many couples consider their communication style to be “normal,” and therefore healthy — or at least not unhealthy. You know in theory that you shouldn’t engage in a screaming match with your partner…or slam doors…or insult each other. However, if that’s what you saw growing up and that’s the way you have always communicated, you might consider it par for the conflict course. After all, you might reason, no one has a completely harmonious relationship. Everyone loses his or her temper from time to time.
While it is true that no relationship is perfect and that every couple argues, ignoring or rationalizing constant bickering and allowing anger to simmer will cause serious breaks in your bond. Every time you cross that line and begin communicating in an unhealthy, destructive, or downright vicious way, you erode your connection and decrease the feeling of safety and trust in your relationship.
Take the first step: Make a commitment to fight for the relationship, not just for yourself. Start taking responsibility for your role in the drama and mayhem that ensues in your fights and look toward correcting imbalances.
Share this commitment verbally with your partner. Say something like, “I know that we are fighting a lot, and that I’m not doing my part to argue with you in a loving and constructive way. I am making a commitment to change that, and I won’t allow myself to get carried away by anger or the need to be right.” You don’t have to ask your partner to commit to this as well. It’s likely that he will choose to make a similar verbal commitment, but even if he doesn’t, you will change the fighting dynamics simply by shifting your own attitude and approach.
It is especially important to take responsibility for your relationship when you feel like things have gotten off track. When this happens, sit down and really talk about what’s going on. Agree that you can both call a “reboot” when the relationship hits a rough patch. This means deciding to stop harping on what has been going wrong, letting go of blame and anger, and starting with a clean slate — remembering that you are allies, not enemies, in your relationship.
And, remember, you really don’t have to keep having the same fight over and over — you have the power to resolve your issues and rediscover relationship bliss.