Therapist approved tips to fight fair in your relationship

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Counselling Psychologist - M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.

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Conflicts are “Perpetual”

According to John Gottman (a researcher of relationships), conflicts are “perpetual”. This means that every relationship is bound to experience some sort of conflict that can never be fully resolved. They can arise for many reasons but what is important to understand is that couples who actively try to work on managing these conflicts seem to have a better chance of longevity and health in their relationship. 

Do Conflicts mean I’m in a Bad Relationship? 

No, the occurrence of conflicts does not mean that you are in a bad relationship. As we mentioned, it is very normal to experience conflicts. There are many reasons as to why a couple can get into an argument. Normally, it is a common occurrence because when dealing with two different persons, some arguments or points of conflict are bound to arise. These could range from issues of expectations, issues with boundaries, issues with insecurities, and many such problems. It is very normal for these to arise, but it is important that a couple actively works on solving these issues. 

How can we deal with Conflicts in Relationships?

If you and your partner have found yourself in multiple conflicts recently, these are some of the pointers to keep in mind the next time you feel an argument is brewing, 

Fair Fighting

Every couple must strive as far as possible to fight fairly with their partner. Fair fighting is when you are getting your grievance out without disrespecting the other person or using abusive language. You are not demeaning or belittling your partner and deal with all the grievances they’ve brought out with empathy and understanding. Fair fighting is the ability to argue with your partner in a “constructive” manner and not a “destructive” manner. It allows for both of you to manage the conflict in healthy ways. 

What is the importance of Fair Fighting in a Relationship?

When you fight fairly with your partner you are going to get your problem solved sooner than when you fight with them unfairly. When you react to your partner’s words using abusive language, for instance, you are only creating more negative emotion to flow. This will take up both of your time which you could have instead spent on solving the problem. Fighting fair creates more trust in the relationship and allows you and your partner to have better functioning well-being. 

Therapist-approved Tips to Fight Fair in Your Relationship

You and your partner perhaps got into a very ugly fight and now you don’t know what to do. You’re feeling many emotions at the same time ranging from anger to sadness to anxiety. Conflicts are a part of every relationship. And sometimes conflicts can be healthy because it teaches you something about yourself and about your partner. It can be a very challenging task to navigate through a conflict. Here are some therapist-approved tips to fight fairer in your relationship, 

Think before you Speak

This is the first thing you must do to fight fair. Before you say anything to your partner you must think about what you are going to say. Sometimes in a state of anger, you might say something hurtful to your partner. This only makes situations worse. That is why it is advisable to think before you speak. This will allow you to consciously choose the words. You can take this time to properly frame your complaint so that it makes it easier for your partner to understand. If you don’t think before speaking, matters only escalate because of heightened emotion. 

Use “I” Statements

When you are communicating your problem to your partner it is always advisable to use “I” statements. When you use “I” statements you are stating the problem and how it made you feel. This makes it easier for your partner to understand and take responsibility for. For example, if you say - “I felt unsupported when you didn’t congratulate me on the prize.”, your partner will understand that they made a mistake of not supporting you after winning and that it caused you to feel unsupported.

Instead of this if you say - “You never support me over my achievements.”, you are placing an accusation on your partner that they never support you. That is instigating and is going to escalate the fight even more. 

Listen to your Partner

A big part of every fight is listening. You must listen more than you speak. Imagine how it would feel if you spoke and vented your emotions out and realized that your partner didn’t pay attention to any of it.

This is why it is important to actively listen to your partner. One helpful tip is to repeat what you have heard so that your partner can validate if you heard correctly. This is going to bring the heightened emotion down to a great extent so that you can focus on the problem. 

Narrow your Problem

Most of the time what is observed is that during a fight people tend to bring up matters of the past or use absolute words like never and always. This will only prolong the issue and won’t help you in resolving it. When you are addressing your partner it is best to narrow down your problem.

Let’s say your partner doesn’t help you around the house often, instead of saying something like “You never help me around the house, and for the past 10 months I’m doing all the work like laundry and dishes which was something you said you would do.”, switch to saying something like this “I was really unhappy that you didn’t do the dishes and the laundry today.”. This way you are narrowing your problem down to a manageable thing for your partner to understand.

Once you both cool down, you can probably show them that this is a repeated phenomenon and request them not to do it again. This is a more productive way of solving the problem. 

Practice Empathy

Throughout the fight remember that your partner is their own person and it is important you deal with them using empathy. You must take time to see things from their perspective. If we take the above example where let’s say your partner felt unsupported, you must see it from their perspective and respect what they have felt. You must never try to justify your behavior over their emotions. Their emotions require as much validation as much as your point of view. 

Take Responsibility

Speaking of empathy, it is also helpful to take responsibility for the mistakes you made during the fight. When you acknowledge your mistakes in a fight it creates trust with your partner and shows that you are willing to do what it takes to resolve the conflict. Taking responsibility will also encourage your partner to do the same on their part. This will create a sense of shared responsibility which will help you bounce back to strengthen your relationship. 

Work against the Problem, not against Each Other

One more important thing to remember is that it is always both of you against the problem and not you vs. them. You must not keep the “winning” mindset when you are arguing with your partner. After airing out both sides of concerns, you both must sit together and decide on working through the conflict. You can do this by brainstorming different ideas and taking accountability for small tasks you can do to prevent mistakes from coming up next time. Nothing is more empowering than being a resilient couple, hence, you must always have a problem-solving approach to your conflicts. 

If you feel that you require further assistance from our therapists on helping you and your partner navigate through conflicts or other similar issues, then you can follow our blog, CoupleBees. 

Ms. Priyanka Walia
Ms. Priyanka Walia M.A. Counselling Psychology Counselling Psychologist 05 years of experience

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