There’s this belief that a lot of people share when it comes to a happy and successful relationship.
The belief that I constantly come across in the work I do with men is that my relationship isn’t successful if my partner and I are fighting.
Let me dispel this myth right here and now.
All couples fight. Fighting is a natural part of any relationship.
Think about it, you’ve got two people from different upbringings with different beliefs, values, feelings and emotions coming together and essentially merging their lives with each other.
And when all those factors come together, they are bound to clash every once in a while.
So the issue isn’t about how to avoid fighting, it’s about how to do it in a way that allows for the conflict to happen but minimizes the damage it causes between you and your partner.
Furthermore, you’ll want to ensure that the fight takes the shortest amount of time possible so that your time together is optimized for love and intimacy instead of conflict.
So what’s the solution?
What do you do when you are right in the middle of it and things are so heated you can’t even think straight?
I find that the best thing to focus on so that things don’t get so heated, is to focus on how you both are feeling.
One person might have one perspective of an interaction and another might have a completely opposite one.
Events, what the other person did or didn’t do are all a matter of perspective, and the thing is you each have a valid perspective which you will both remember vividly. (Check this piece out on how emotions impact our memories)
The best way to deal with fights and arguments between couples is to bring your emotions to the surface.
Talk about your feelings
That’s right, talk about how you each are feeling. You can’t argue with how someone’s feeling.
If you’re sad, you’re sad – your partner can’t tell you otherwise – there’s no interpretation of sadness, there’s just sadness.
There’s no arguing when it comes to feelings.
Most arguments and fights start because someone is feeling something that’s not being communicated or is not being acknowledged by the other party.
When I am annoyed at my wife because she doesn’t refill our water pitcher when there’s an entire slew of feelings that I go through when that happens.
I may feel angry because I’ve asked her to do that in the past and she’s still forgets. Maybe I feel frustration because I wanted some water in the moment and now have to wait until the water is filtered to drink it.
What can happen is that instead of me feeling my anger or frustration, I might instead lash out and say “You always do this!” or “Why can’t you just fill this up, I don’t understand why this is so hard!”
After I say that, an argument then can build up because the events and what I said are now open to argue about.
If we play this out my wife might then counter with something like “What are you talking about? I just filled it last week” or say something that defends her behaviour like “Well you never put the dishes back where they belong.”
Now you see we aren’t in a dialogue about how we are feeling but instead a dialogue about what happened and our interpretations of those events.
Your basic ‘he said’ ‘she said’ interaction.
Which then escalates to a full on fight.
However, if I just stayed with my feelings and said instead “I’m frustrated because I’m thirsty right now and the water pitcher is empty” – it gives my partner an opportunity to acknowledge and validate my feelings.
And by acknowledging my feelings and validating them, that’s really all each party needs in order for the argument to subside.
Once my partner understands and feels my anger and frustration and once I let myself feel my anger and frustration, it disappears.
After it disappears, there’s nothing to argue over as what I was looking for in the first place is validation for the way I’m feeling.
In fact many times me speaking from the place of my felt emotional experience has my wife way more willing to ‘hear me out’ and understand where I’m coming from without getting defensive or triggered.
Feeling the feelings underneath the conflict is something I’ve found to be exceptionally effective in dissolving conflict. And it is also much healthier for you as an individual both psychologically and of course emotionally.
So for the next time you get into an argument, try asking your partner this question:
How does that make you feel?
Focus instead on understanding how they are feeling versus what you said or did (or in some cases didn’t say or do)
You’ll find that once you understand the feelings the whole argument might just disappear in less time than when you are focused on who’s right and who’s wrong.
And I’m sure that we could all use less fighting in our relationships!
What have you learned about fighting that helps you work through them? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
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