Stop fighting — before it's too late.
If you’re not fighting in your relationship, you’re probably single. Not that “his” and “her” boxing gloves should hang in the bathroom next to the towels, but fighting — even in healthy relationships — is part of a happily ever after, whether we like it or not.
Plainly put, it’s almost impossible to hang around someone all the time and never get annoyed, pissed off, or hurt. Still, there is a huge disconnect between fighting every once in a while and fighting all the time.
So, if fights with your partner are constantly brining you down, there are some important questions to ask yourself that can help you learn how to resolve conflict and improve communication.
Why do fights occur, even in healthy relationships, and how do you resolve conflict with your partner?
Many conflicts between two partners escalate because of one silent question each person is wondering: “Am I respected?”
Of course, there are other questions that might come into play: “Does this person really want to be with me? Should I leave? Is this a red flag? Are we delaying the inevitable breakup?”
The problem with these questions is that they are about as loaded as they come. They are also not benign.
Rather, these worries question the foundation of your relationship. Instead of allowing yourself to take a step back, take a deep breath, and think, “We are strong enough to get through this”, these types of questions ignite your fight-or-flight instincts.
You either stay and argue, or you think about packing up your suitcase and walking out the door. Cue dramatic exit.
These questions also block effective communication with your partner. Suddenly, you aren’t two people fighting for your relationship or working toward conflict resolution. Instead, you are fighting to see if you can get your way, win the argument, and earn the proverbial medal and hang it from your bedpost. There's a saying I think rings true here: “You can either be right, or you can be happy.”
Fighting from this stance will nearly always bring up past baggage and a sense of heaviness that makes even the pettiest, no-big-deal fights seem insurmountable.
This is not a healthy relationship. Instead, you and your partner need to learn how to improve communication and conflict resolutions skills as a couple.
Here are three questions to ask yourself if you and your partner are constantly fighting in your relationship.
1. Are You Whole and Complete?
Ask yourself: “If I felt completely loved and I knew I was whole and complete, how would I enter into and handle the situation?”
You are asking from a place of security. You know you are loved. You know you are whole. You know you are complete. This stops you from trying to get something from the other person — validation or satisfaction or a simple sense of winning the argument — that you can use to hold over their head at a later date.
When you approach a conflict knowing that you are safe, you act accordingly. You’re in control. You’re rational. You’re open. You’re willing to work together to find a solution for both parties involved.
You also can bring this safety and security into the conversation as an offering. Your partner will feel less threatened. Their biology will naturally begin to mimic yours, staying away from a ‘fight or flight response'.
2. Do you know your partner's needs?
Ask yourself: “What is the unexpressed need that my partner is conveying that they just may not know how to communicate?”
Behind every argument is a lot of emotion and need. Think about it: You probably don’t argue with people you don’t care for (aside from certain customer service agents…). You may recognize that you are arguing based on this need (or the need of your partner), but it can still be extremely difficult to express what your heart wants. Doing so makes you vulnerable.
People don’t like being vulnerable, even in otherwise healthy relationships. Many are outright against it, even though it is one of the keys to a happy union.
To cover up this vulnerability, they present an aggressive stance instead. They might attack, pass judgment, and get defensive. They might act like a downright jerk in order to cover up the fact that they really just want to be loved, to be desired, to feel reassured, and to feel respected. These are things all people want, even if they’re unwilling to say so because of their fear of losing the upper hand.
When you see through the cover up — when you acknowledge that an attack on you is merely a need for you — you’re better able to enter the conversation with compassion and cooperation, knowing that the attack is merely a smokescreen for a deep level of unexpressed caring. And both these things work wonders in any conflict.
3. Do you take responsibility?
Ask yourself: “Where can I take responsibility?”
It nearly always takes two to tango. Even if the other person is overtly responsible for damaging a relationship, their partner is rarely blame-free.
Take adultery, for instance. The person who cheats is the one who deserves the brunt of the burden, but that doesn’t mean their partner did nothing wrong. After all, people cheat for a reason.
All of this doesn’t mean you should enter into every argument with your hands in the air yelling, “It’s me! I’m the guilty one.” But if you’re open enough to see that you do bear some responsibility, the argument will deflate. Admitting wrongdoing is like letting go of a balloon before you’ve tied it shut.
Of course, removing the argumentative stance from a conflict is a good thing — its eviction helps turn an argument into a conversation. But accepting responsibility for your part in any dysfunction also allows you to take control over the one thing you can — yourself.
By doing that, your partner will (hopefully) follow your example and do the same. At the very least, it allows you to move past the blame game and avoid finger pointing.
The next time you have a relationship fight with your partner (and there will be a next time — and that’s okay!), try these questions out. You’ll likely find that the difference between arguing and agreeing isn’t really all that far apart. It's just a matter of building effective communication and conflict resolution skills as a couple.
If you’re interested in learning more about this, take a look at the guide 8 Secrets to Create a Rock-Solid Relationship.
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This article is originally posted on YourTango.