Learning to manage disagreements with your partner can be a super helpful skill to have in romantic relationships. It’s far too easy to get into a fight, get caught up in the moment, and start dragging your partner through every mistake they’ve ever made. However, this type of fighting isn’t always the healthiest, and can be harmful toward the relationship if you and your partner aren’t careful. That’s why fighting fairly in relationships is something everyone would benefit from mastering.
It is totally normal to argue with your partner from time to time, so don’t feel like every time you have a fight, it’s because your relationship is doomed. Being able to resolve conflicts can have a huge impact on how you and your partner manage your differences overall. Even though it can be tempting to say things out of spite or fall into the trap of rehashing old drama, avoiding these tactics can help you both focus on the task at hand: finding the best way to solve the issue. Whether you’re arguing over dirty dishes, or something much bigger, there is a way to argue productively. I reached out to four therapists to find out how they teach their clients to do just that. Here’s what they had to say.
1. TRY NOT TO SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF.
Can we just be honest? People do stuff that gets on our nerves at times. That’s true of all of us, even with the people — maybe even especially with the people — we love the most. Great couples have learned not to let those little things distract from the major things — like love and commitment.
— Fran Walfish, Family & Relationship Psychotherapist
2. BE SOLUTION-ORIENTED.
A powerful way to stop fighting is that you can only speak up unless you are offering a fair and wise solution. Get proactive so you can avoid (or lessen) fights in the future. For example, create some ground rules together such as: No disagreements unless you are holding hands or maintaining some safe and warm physical contact, and accusations [sic]. The faster you get to a solution, the easier it is to calm down and discuss your feelings.
— LeslieBeth Wish, Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist
3. ACCEPT THAT SOMETIMES YOU’RE BOTH ‘RIGHT.’
Become really, really good at holding different and opposing viewpoints in your mind. You won’t always see eye-to-eye with your partner, and that’s OK. Some people assume because their partner thinks differently, they’re wrong. They’re not wrong. In most cases, you’re both right. It’s important for both partners to acknowledge the other’s perspective and validate their thoughts and feelings. You won’t be able to effectively compromise if you don’t understand your partner’s stance.
— Anita A. Chlipala, Relationship Expert & Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
4. DON’T MAKE PERMANENT DECISIONS DURING A DISAGREEMENT.
My number one tip is to not make any major decisions in the midst of a highly charged argument. The more intense our emotions are, the more impaired our judgement can be. Wait for a cooling off period when you are calm and thinking more clearly before deciding.
— Gary Brown, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Even though fights with your partner can be very upsetting, just remember that every problem has a solution. If you both can stay focused on finding a resolution, whatever that may be, then there’s always hope.