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Relationship Conflict: Fighting the Good Fight

Conflict in relationships is inevitable. We all have our own wants, needs, and expectations and so naturally, we are not always going to be able to see eye-to-eye. As no two people process life in the exact same way, there are various reasons why we find ourselves in disagreements with our partners that occasionally escalate into fights.

But instead of viewing arguments as a bad thing, experts encourage us to consider them as healthy opportunities for growth as a couple and ways learn from one another to eventually work better as a team. Although this can feel very difficult in the moment when blood is boiling and tolerance levels are low, if handled in the right way resolution can often even bring couples closer making them even stronger than before. The goal is to embrace conflict and develop the skills that promote a good fight, and not a destructive one. While some conflict can certainly be harmful and should be addressed with the help of a professional, here are some tips for better communication, as well as a few strategies to consider when tackling tension that can arise.

Begin carefully and be mindful of your approach

Be aware of your tone, the language you decide to use, and the volume you start with when expressing yourself and your frustrations with your partner. Coming in hot and heavy can put your loved one in an automatic defense mode making a lot of what you are trying to communicate very difficult for them to hear. How conversations are initiated directly impacts how they ultimately unravel.

Describe your feelings and needs instead of placing blame

Often, we want our partners to understand our side of an argument so badly that it can be tempting to push our own perspectives on to them which can come across as somewhat critical. Instead, try to communicate how you are feeling without using self-victimizing language. Sticking with “I feel” or “I need” statements will likely remove the accusation or blame by bringing the focus to yourself and your own needs.

Be empathetic when listening to each other

Take the time when your partner is expressing themselves to understand how they are seeing the issue and then ask questions for clarification. This will show that what they have to say is important to you and will allow them to feel validated. Saying something like, “I think I understand where you are coming from, and it does make sense” can keep and argument from escalating into the danger zone where you both end up lashing out in anger and saying things that make the other feel unheard or disrespected.

Resist the urge to avoid things

Sometimes it can just feel easier to let something slide that has been bothering you in order to side-step a sensitive issue or an awkward conversation that feels threatening to the relationship. However, it often proves true that when couples keep things to themselves when they are upset it is actually more likely to harm the relationship than help it. Not only can keeping things bottled up create a disconnect, but it often results in an emotional explosion that can be messy.

Find the emotional root of an issue

More often than not, underneath an argument is an unmet emotional need. For example, your partner continues to leave their dirty dishes in the sink despite your requests to place them in the dishwasher. This can result in an argument. However, the layer beneath the conversation about the chore could be something like “I don’t feel valued” or “I don’t feel like I am coming first”. When you take the time to dig a little deeper into why something your partner is doing causes a particular response, the core emotional need is addresses and greater understanding is also achieved.

While conflict in an inevitable and healthy part of any relationship, it is important to know that too much can become toxic. The challenge is to find a method and appropriate balance when expressing your opinions and feelings in a way that you can remain respectful with your partner but also be careful not to sacrifice yourself. This may require working on your technique and taking the time to practice at first. Additionally, some outside perspective may be just what you both need to provide objectivity. Therapy can help you navigate what the good fight looks like for you, which might help you improve your relationship with your partner and with yourself.

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