How To Fight With Your Partner In A Healthy Way

couple holding hands with shadows
couple holding hands with shadows
PHOTO: UNSPLASH/PRISCILLA DU PREEZ

Every relationship has its ups and downs, and dealing with arguments and disagreements in an effective way is a very important element of a healthy partnership. However, the importance lies in dealing with conflict in a healthy manner, rather than it being emotionally difficult and stressful. According to psychologists and medical research, managing arguments in an honest and constructive manner can actually help make relationships stronger by bringing you and your partner closer together.

Here are 8 things to be mindful of during your next fight:

1. Argue when you're feeling calm

Heightened emotions usually only exacerbate already tense situations, without adding any real practical benefits. For instance, it’s much more effective to be able to have a civil conversation with your partner when both of you are calm, rather than try reasoning with someone who is yelling at the top of their voice or bawling their eyes out. Name calling and being abusive isn’t the way to settle an argument.

2. Argue in good faith

If you’re arguing with your partner, make sure it’s for the right reasons, and that you're not attacking their character or picking fights over inconsequential things. Healthy relationships are built on trust, so whatever you are arguing about, make an effort to not let it become bigger than your relationship.

3. Live in the present

Live in the moment and argue in the moment only also. Train yourself to resolve the current issue without bringing up the ugly past and turning the argument into something bigger than it needs to be. Couples typically fight over the same things, though the details may differ slightly each time. Holding on to past grudges only helps cement resentment and bitterness. It happened. Let it go. Move on.

Couple sitting and looking at each other
Couple sitting and looking at each other
PHOTO: UNSPLASH/ETIENNE BOULANGER

4. Don’t leave an issue unresolved

Sometimes people snap for no apparent reason or seem to have an extremely short fuse because something has triggered a negative emotion. According to research, sweeping things under the carpet only results in a bigger problem down the line. This also then results in re-visiting the past (see point 3 above) in every future fight, making things very complicated and unpleasant for everyone, making the argument a lot worse than it needs to.

More often than not, not being able to resolve an issue effectively leads to a complete communication breakdown and people push harder to make their point (usually by yelling louder and being more abrasive). Couples who fight productively are able to keep calm to make sure they resolve the problem rationally and with less emotions. If you notice the argument isn’t going anywhere, call a time out and pick up things again in an hour or two when you’ve both had time to calm down and think about the problem some more.

5. Respond, don’t react

Count to 10 before getting into an argument and be mindful of your behaviour. Taking a moment to pause and analyse the situation can make all the difference between reacting to something defensively and responding to it effectively.

6. Timing is everything

Like with everything in life, timing is crucial. There’s no point in bringing up a serious topic if you need to leave in the next five minutes. Likewise, it’s probably not going to help if you spring something on your partner the minute they walk through the door after a long day at work. Give them time to decompress so that they can focus completely on you. If something is bothering you, ask your partner to make time to listen to what you have to say. Scheduling time is being respectful of each other’s needs and helps resolve conflicts more effectively when you aren’t rushed for time.

7. Don’t argue in the bedroom

Don’t bring negative energy into the bedroom – that’s meant to be your peaceful zone. Instead, make an effort to keep the fighting to any other part of the house, so that you can return to the bedroom peacefully (having solved the problem too).

Couple hugging on a dock
Couple hugging on a dock
PHOTO: UNSPLASH/DAVID CAJILIMA

8. Be honest

Whether you’re complaining, making a request about something or apologising – make sure you do it honestly and mean what you say. Simple as that.

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