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. The 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.
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