Eighteen Tips to Fight a Good Fight in Your Relationship
Posted May 28, 2014
Arguing is normal. What's more, it's healthy. But arguing is an art, and there are definitely wrong (and right!) ways to do it. The following tips for good fighting are not in any particular order.
- All arguments begin about the thing that triggered them, and then they quickly devolve into arguments about how you’re communicating. So, your entire argument should be about how you are communicating. In other words, deal with the thing that started the fight first, and then begin discussing your communication and the deeper feelings head on.
- No name calling
- No threatening to leave the relationship, physical violence, blackmailing, etc. No threats of any kind.
- Pay attention to the feeling – is it a familiar feeling you’ve had your whole life? Then it isn’t about the person in front of you. Chances are, no matter what happened, you were triggered by something the other person did or said, but your feelings are about you and your own issues.
- Forget details. Forget being right. Talk only about what you’re feeling.
- Do not under any circumstances suggest that the other person is responsible for a. Giving you the feeling that feels bad, or b. Making you feel better. You can share your feeling. You can make a request as to what you would like from the other person surrounding that feeling. But you may not make demands on how the other person has to behave.
- Try to get away from the anger as soon as possible. In general, you want to remove yourselves from each other while the anger is hot. Have a code word you will use to say, “I’m getting out of here before I say or do something I’ll regret. I’ll be back when I calm down.”
- Think about what you actually need in this moment and how you will most likely get it. For example, you want to feel loved and safe that you aren’t going to lose him/her. Say that. Saying that will get you want you want: reassurance, affection. Saying something like, “You’re a douchebag,” or “you’re trying to hurt me,” will not!
- If you can’t handle this right now, say you need to wait to have this discussion. If s/he says this to you, respect that. Or else, I guarantee you, things will go badly. Say, “Ok. Please let me know when you’re ready to talk about it.”
- Work hard to not say things you will regret having said later. If you don’t think you’ll be able to, use that code word and take some time to calm down.
- During an argument is not a time to decide to leave a relationship. Deciding to leave should be in calm, well thought out circumstances.
- Apologize often throughout arguments.
- Emphasize often throughout arguments. Say, “So, what I understand you’re saying is you feel.... Is that right?”
- Stay on task. Do not bring up something from the past that you’re still having feelings about. That’s something you can bring up at another time. For example: Person A: You didn’t put gas in my car! Person B: Well, you didn’t buy more toilet paper last week when you said you would!
- Practice compassion. At all times, make your argument about compassion. Force yourself to think, “How can I be compassionate with this person I love right now?”
- Help each other. Don’t engage with the other person while s/he is caught in the same spiral about things you did or didn’t do. Say, “Stop. Tell me what you feel. Think for a second and just tell me your feeling. That’s what I care about.”
- Practice self-awareness. Pull out this list during arguments and say, “Stop. I want to do this better. Let’s start again, following these rules better.”
- In times when you aren’t arguing, explain to each other how it feels to be you. Don’t even talk about the other person while explaining. Say, “The hardest, most painful feeling I have is __________.” Even better, write a paragraph about it, or a page. Read it to the other person. When s/he reads to you or talks to you about it, be there for him/her. Hold him/her. Let him/her emote. Tell him/her how much you care about how difficult that pain is for him/her. Each of you give your primary difficult feeling a one word name: terror, loneliness, emptiness, etc. Then, during an argument, it can be a safe word the other person must respect. You can say, “I feel terror right now!” And the other person can stop everything, perhaps say, “Ok, let’s stop. Let’s take a break from one another and calm down.”