Relationships are either a happy and safe place, or an extremely toxic source of stress, anger and anxiety. As our upbringings, expectations and values vary, so do our fighting styles and skills. A couple’s level of relational success and happiness is reflected in how they fight and resolve conflict.
Fighting is an inevitable, emotionally-driven form of communication that can be rewarding for relationships when done properly and productively.
Here are a few tips you can use to transform your fighting style in your relationship:
Pay attention to your physical reaction. The onset of anger typically creates a physical response that takes place immediately before we are prepared to unleash our emotions on our partner. Be mindful of your body. You may feel a sudden rush of heat, turn red, or your palms may begin to sweat. Use these non-verbal cues as a guide for your actions, rather than a stimulant for an attack. When you become more aware of these physical cues, you are likely to cool-down and rationalize your thoughts, and as a result, you improve your delivery.
Feeling nasty? Be quiet. Words are damaging, lasting and one of the few things you cannot take back. DON’T BE NASTY. Name calling and put downs can be the baggage we store away for future trips to the ring. To avoid carrying this weight – choose your words carefully. Words can be used as weapons for wounding, or blocks for building a healthier foundation.
Fight for, not against. Partners who fight to win over the other, both lose. Couples should fight together for the overall betterment of their relationship - not against one another for the opportunity to be right. Work together to identify a win that is equally valuable for the union, not the individual.
Attack the problem, not the person. Easier said than done, right? In the heat of an argument it’s normal to feel slighted by your partner. When this happens you develop an urgent desire to address them and argue your stance. Reframe this focus into being attentive to the problem. View your partner as a co-investigator who is there to help you explore ways to resolve a conflict with shared respect, accountability and sincerity. This way, it’s you and your partner against the problem, instead of you and your partner against each other - with an unaddressed, accumulating problem lingering in the center.
Listen to learn, not to reply. This is one of the toughest skills for couples to utilize when fighting, but it can be mastered with practice. Many times we half-listen because we are consumed with thinking of a rebuttal. This is a damaging cycle of idleness. If you want to establish a healthy resolution, it’s important to listen to your partner with the intent to learn about their feelings and expectations. You may gain a new understanding of your partner, and also detect your role in the conflict.
Use fighting as an opportunity to engage, connect with, and embrace your partner. The goal is to withstand – not wither.
Written by Brianna Colbert, MA, LLPC.