Marital fighting is part of married life. Couples who fight are happier - it is well-known. Long-term unhappiness and distrust are at the heart of couples who bury their problems down deep, afraid of the intimacy that fighting requires. However, it is also well known that many couples fight the wrong way, leading to pain that breaks up the relationship. So, how do you fight (get the angries out) without fighting (trading attacks back and forth)?
When we treat a confrontation with our partner as a battle, we look to ourselves first: How do I protect myself? Did he just insult me? Did she just ignore my right to an opinion? Then we start firing back as much ammo as we think we’re receiving. In this way, the best way to start ending those fiery battles is to tell yourself: “We’re not fighting, we’re solving a problem.” You need to tell your brain to let down its defenses so that you can understand and analyze the situation without emotionally reacting to it.
This opens up the next area you should work on: admitting your own share of the conflict. When we’re defensive, the brain shuts off the area that lets us see our own fault - it’s a self-protection mechanism you don’t need right now. By keeping a clear head, you see the situation for what it is, and show your partner you’re actually engaged by addressing what you did wrong (or what your partner perceived to be wrong to them). You can then understand why your partner does x when you do y (even if you don’t agree that it should make them upset). If the relationship is important to you, you’ll learn which activities you do that push your partner’s buttons, and vice versa. Remember that just because it doesn’t bother you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother them! This happens quite often in couples who are bringing two different cultures or family values to the table.
Remember that fighting in a healthy way requires some key lessons. You should learn how to:
Offer a sincere apology when it’s needed, even if it’s just for causing a misunderstanding;
Praise your partner for their achievements, even achievements made in listening and staying calm;
See your own conflict-causing attributes and work to adapt them to your partner’s needs;
Treat your partner with respect, not as a dumb enemy who needs your guidance;
Know when to stop and when to say more;
Give up your pride and need to be right, for the good of the relationship.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can achieve better communication with your partner, and avoid the inevitable intimidation of one partner over the other that leads to voids in the relationship.