We all fight. Sometimes, we even resort to pulling out the big guns. Screams. Silence. Snark. Count on it: Even in the healthiest relationships, at one point or another, there’s an inevitable explosion. So how do we deal with the conflict that’s just a normal part of life? Not by avoiding it altogether, that’s for sure.

What we have to do—as uncomfortable as it may be—is learn to fight in a healthy way. And that takes practice. Fight Right: 5 Killer Ways to Make Fighting HealthyThe good news is that conflicts usually pass, says author Alan C. Fox, who recently wrote the book People Tools for Love and Relationships. In fact, he says, fights have the power to bring you closer and can even make your relationship stronger. It all depends on how you navigate this challenging territory together. So what do you do when you’re about to lose it?

Stay put—and use these tips to help you the next time you find yourself pulling out the proverbial boxing gloves.

5 WAYS TO ENGAGE IN HEALTHY FIGHTING

1. Apologize Quickly, Even If You’re Right.

This is the simplest and most effective thing you can do when fighting with your partner. Yet it’s often the most difficult, especially when you’re convinced that you’re right, which is most of the time, if not always. That’s why there is an argument in the first place: two people each believe that they are right.

Apologizing isn’t easy, even if there’s very little at stake. You have to put aside your pride and be willing to compromise on some points, even when you feel strongly about them. Saying your sorry is the quickest and surest way to put a dispute to rest, or to resolve any hard feelings that may have resulted from it. An apology builds trust—and trust is the foundation of all good relationships. So apologize, apologize, apologize. Even if you’re right. And do it quickly, before one or both of you have permanent scars.

2. Remember: The Best Defense is No Defense.

While having a strong defense is helpful on the battlefield, being defensive in your relationships can cause serious problems. Being defensive usually just triggers defensiveness in your partner, and before you know it, you’re both involved in a virtual arms race.

If your partner is upset with you or offers criticism, rather than automatically defending yourself, try adopting an “intent to learn,” and quietly listen to their point to learn what they have to say. This approach can instantly resolve a seemingly difficult situation—and you might learn something of value about yourself!

3. Don’t Expect Your Partner to Read Your Mind.

Many disputes are the result of miscommunications. And one of the most common communication breakdowns happens when you or your partner expect the other to understand their desires without having to say them out loud. No one is an perfect mind reader.

If you’re upset about something, say so. If you want something, say so. And expect your partner to do the same.

4. Give Warm, Fuzzy Cuddles.

This is the most fun of the conflict resolution techniques. A little human contact—a hug, a soft pat on the back, a kiss, or a snuggle—can go a long, long way towards healing any wounds that may have resulted from an argument. The need for contact is deeply human, and we all respond to it on a biological level.

Pleasant physical contact allows us to feel safe, and to let go of our defenses. So the next time that you and your partner are angry with each other, try a cuddle. You may be delighted and surprised by the outcome.

5. Look at the Movie, Not the Snapshot.

It’s all-too-easy to lose sight of the big picture during times of emotional strain and conflict. In times like these, you need to remember that your relationship is more like a movie than a snapshot. It’s a series of events and memories, and not a single particular event. And, as in a movie, following every low point there is often a high point around the corner.

It’s important to keep this perspective in mind when emotions flare—remind yourself that this is just one of many moments in your relationship, and the movie will improve.

Fight Night: 5 Ways to Make Fighting Healthy

Alan C. Fox is the author of People Tools for Love and Relationships, as well as two other bestselling People Tools books.  He is a real estate investor, philanthropist, mentor, and founder of Rattle poetry journal. Visit www.peopletoolsbook.com

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  • The writer states that, “Saying your sorry is the quickest and surest way to put a dispute to rest, or to resolve any hard feelings that may have resulted from it. An apology builds trust—and trust is the foundation of all good relationships. So apologize, apologize, apologize. Even if you’re right. And do it quickly, before one or both of you have permanent scars.”

    I could not disagree with this more. To apologize for something I am not responsible for strips the power to accept responsibility and change away from the offended person. It creates a codependency wherein each party contracts with the other that feelings will always have more value than truth, right, wrong, fact and thus, assures that there WILL BE future disagreements on the very same issues because the underlying mechanisms are, by said agreement, never properly dealt with. The mere recitation of two words does not “put a dispute to rest,” it kicks the can down the road. Worse, it also provides for each party to remain weak, vulnerable, spineless and powerless— the very things that immediately give rise in conflict to defensive, avoidance behaviors and places pattern recognition (our reptilian brain) on full alert over anything important to either party because; “look out, here it comes again.” I think accepting responsibility for someone else’s feelings or behavior is absolutely destructive to any relationship. To ignorantly proceed through the relationship as though “I’m sorry” positively challenges the relationship to grown in resiliency is false. It does not, in any way set the stage for either person to grow and heal as individuals but it does keep hurling past injury into the relationship’s future. Two people who do this will forever be apologizing FOR the other’s feelings and behavior and it can never truly happen that “I” may issue an apology for someone else. I can deliver one on behalf of a third party but I cannot apologize FOR someone else. It is, without question, one of the most insincere things a person can do. It is perfectly okay to validate someone’s feelings and even state that you regret that they have the feeling expressed… use the word “sorry” if you want but what you cannot actually do is accept responsibility for the emotions of another person or apologize for their bad behavior. This is what battered women do, by the way…. and it keeps them in an emotional hell that words fail to describe.

    If I may make a point through the passive-aggressive use of sarcasm here: I’m waiting for my apology.

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