An excerpt was featured on Relationship Advice Cafe at this link, but below is the entire article I wrote about learning to manage conflict and disagreement productively in a relationship. Id certainly be curious to hear your thoughts folks!
How to Fight Fair. Or as I call it, learning to argue.
Fights are not really about conflict or arguing, but often begin because someone has an issue, emotion, or opinion that is not being listened to or understood. Dealing with conflict starts with listening. Think about your last argument: If you felt listened to and understood would you need someone to agree with you?
If we listen before we react defensively, (by trying to prove how right we are or how right our perspective is) then we can try to understand where our partner is coming from. Because often it isn’t about what is said but the meaning behind it. If you can listen to your partner and try to understand where they are coming from, than maybe instead of being defensive, both parties can be open to working towards compromise and resolution.
The end goal of an argument is what? To be heard? To be right? To achieve change? We need to change how we look at conflict resolution in our relationships and see that the end goal hopefully is to have your point heard and to achieve a compromised upon solution. Don’t forget that arguments can be about all different types of emotions, but that anger is often rooted in pain and hurt. These emotions arise in conflict and at times we further trigger them in how we argue. Each one of us needs to get in touch with what hurts us, and why, to work to manage our anger and improve how we argue.
A few things we need to remember when trying to fight fair beyond what has been stated above:
-Stop trying to be right. What does it matter if you are right and the person you love isn’t speaking to you? Is it that important to be right if it means you hurt your partner or create negativity in your relationship? What does being right mean anyways? We get so caught up in trying to prove our point, that we forget that the end goal is improving the relationship.
-Don’t be mean or bring up things from the past. Being hurtful to your partner in an argument or referring to things that happened long ago is not only unfair, but also very unproductive. If the goal truly is to have your feelings understood and validated, then attacking your partner with harsh words and grudges will only backfire by creating defensiveness and anger. Not only that, but if you want someone to understand you, you have to try to understand them. Relationships are a two way street and it is important to be considerate of your partner if you want them to be considerate of you, even in a fight.
-Accept that arguments are a part of being in a relationship. If you learn to argue productively, disagreements can function as inspirations for change and opportunities to strengthen your bond as a couple. Moving through conflict can create greater trust and relationship security. Many couples find that arguments are a healthy way to address tension and navigate concerns.
If we can listen, understand and remember our end goal (a loving and harmonious relationship) then we can learn to use disagreements as a tool to improve our connection as opposed to something that tears us apart. Learn to argue from a place of love and acceptance and what once was a fight will become a productive exploration!
PS Hurting someone physically or emotionally is never an option if you desire to have a healthy relationship. Putting your hands on your partner or saying malicious things are not ok behaviors to engage in, even if you are angry. These behaviors are abusive, can become habitual and often require you to seek help in addressing them. If you find yourself in a relationship like this, or one that in any other way feels negative or unhealthy, please consider contacting one of the resources below.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Dating Abuse Helpline
National Youth Crisis Line
National Center for Victims of Crime