Conflict doesn’t mean that your relationship is in trouble – it means that you are two living, thinking beings with individual opinions. Both happy and unhappy couples disagree – how can any two people share a house, jobs, in-laws, pets or kids without an occasional spat? Everyone disagrees at some point – but when do you know that things are out of hand?
There’s a world of difference between constructive criticism and dirty fighting. With the right tools and mind set, conflict can actually become a path to deeper intimacy – the chance to be seen as you truly are, to accept your partner’s vulnerable and unique self, and to build a strong partnership.
Partnerships and couples need to have discussions, they need to solve problems, and sometimes they need to disagree, but they don’t need to squabble, argue, bicker, or fight. Fights are dramatic, which is not helpful to a discussion. If you have enough energy to create drama, you have more than enough to tone it down into a discussion. Here are a set of guidelines you may find helpful in arguing.
- Remember the point of the fight is to reach a solution, not to win, be right, or make your partner wrong.
- Don’t try to mind read. Ask instead what he or she is thinking.
- Don’t bring up all the prior problems that relate to this one. Leave the past in the past; keep this about one recent problem. Solve one thing at a time.
- Keep the process simple. State the problem, suggest some alternatives, and choose a solution together.
- Practice equality. If something is important enough to one of you, it will inevitably be important to both of you, so honor your partner’s need to solve a problem.
- Ask and Answer questions directly. Again, keep it as simple as possible. Let your partner know you hear him or her.
- State your problem as a request, not a demand. To make it a positive request, use “I messages” and “please”.
Next time you have an argument, practice some of these guidelines and you will be amazed at how the interaction will change.