“Ordinary, the focus of (relationship) fights is an exaggeration of life issues…” – Lynn E. O’Connor Ph.D.
Fighting with someone you love is a wretched, sometimes devastating experience that can have serious repercussions on the relationship. Even after the fight ends, remnants of the conflict remain: negative thoughts, low energy, depression, and so on. Perhaps the worst feeling of all is guilt and worry about how your unkind words affected your partner.
Until some type of peace is declared between both partners, a tense and unfavorable environment will repel them from each other. Obviously, the overwhelming presence of negative energy is deeply unsettling. It is best, therefore, to diffuse the situation ASAP.
It is important to understand that not all conflict is necessarily bad; in fact, it can even be healthy. Couples, especially couples during the early phases of their relationship, will butt heads – a byproduct of evolving intimacy. Couples married for years will disagree about something important; potentially leading to an argument.
Dr. Hillary Goldsher, a licensed clinical psychologist explains: “It is inevitable that issues arise that require resolution when two people have an intimate connection. The question is not if conflicts are going to occur, but how to handle them when they do.”
Many harsh arguments (read: fights), however, serve little purpose – and are often instigated by a simple misunderstanding. One partner says something the other partner misinterprets, the other partner “goes off,” and things spiral downwards from there.
“Prevention is the best cure” is a phrase oft-cited within the medical community – and one that is applicable to this article’s topic. Specifically, we want to equip our readers with some basic knowledge on how to prevent (or stop) a fight with your partner.
Here are 5 ways to avoid fights with your partner:
1. Admit when you’re wrong and apologize
Apologizing when you’re wrong is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent or diffuse an argument. Yet, many of us have a very difficult time admitting fault – this is nothing more than a misplaced sense of pride.
Absolving yourself and admitting you are/were wrong is an incredibly powerful (and courageous) act. Even acts of a profoundly malicious nature can be forgiven if it is sincere. Indeed, we may need to swallow our pride to do the right thing; but if we love the other person, we’ll discover the fortitude necessary to do so.
2. Reach an acceptable compromise – if possible
As with admitting fault and apologizing, compromising can be an easy yet difficult endeavor. The catch is that both people must be willing to “come to the table.” Obviously, compromise is much easier (in most cases) if the matter is trivial: where to eat, what movie to see, and so on.
An important distinction must be made at this juncture. Not all relationships are healthy, and some are extremely harmful. A quickly deteriorating relationship demands a solution that casual compromise will not bring. This is a situation that requires the intervention of a marriage counselor, therapist, or other expert.
3. Don’t take your partner’s problems personally
We spend quite a bit of time with our significant other. As a relationship unfolds, through the days, months, and years, their life becomes our life. However, we can involve ourselves a bit too much – and in situations of little consequence.
A typical scene: one partner comes home from a bad day at the office. The other attempts to engage them in conversation only to receive no response. [Pause]
What are the odds that “the other” partner will take this silent “rebuff” personally? Well, if “the other” is in a sensitive or delicate state, it’s likely they’ll perceive it as such. The result: a needless fight that accomplishes nothing.
Jane Greer, Ph.D. and couples therapist explains: “You have to give your partner the leeway to be in the occasional bad mood. If you expect (them) to cater to your feelings 24/7, you’re being disrespectful and selfish.”
4. Respect each other’s space and privacy
Dr. Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan, has been studying marriage and divorce for over three decades. One particularly eminent study, The Early Years of Marriage Project, tapped Orbuch as a lead researcher.
During her research, Dr. Orbuch and her colleagues concluded that “Having enough space or privacy in a relationship is more important for a couple’s happiness than a good sex life.”
Dr. Orbuch explains: “When partners have their own sets of interests, friends, and time for self, that makes them happier and less bored. Time alone also gives partners time to process their thoughts, pursue hobbies and relax without responsibilities to others.”
Of course, a happier and more relaxed couple is far less likely to engage in fighting.
5. Practice mindfulness
As mentioned, negative emotions instigate and exacerbate a conflict, and leave a dastardly environment of negative energy after the fight is “over.” Hence, why we’re including mindfulness as a solution.
Mindfulness (or mindfulness-meditation) is the practice of observing one’s thoughts without judgment. Negative thoughts and energy are abundant during and after a heavy conflict – and learning how to “manage” these thoughts can both deter and mitigate any argument.
Proper mindfulness training will allow you to see these thoughts as mere thoughts, not as absolutely “truth” which, unfortunately, the mind has a way of misinterpreting.
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Dr. Lynn O’Connor explains: “(Thoughts) become like clouds in the sky – here one moment, gone the next…gaining control of your mind through meditation is one way to cope with a fight.”