How to Fight Better in Relationships
When I first started dating my boyfriend, we would often fight, which initially worried me because of the messaging we hear that fighting is really bad in new relationships, can signal toxicity, and so on.
In our society, conflict generally has a negative connotation. It’s common to think that the best way to safe and secure relationships is to avoid all disagreements — fewer disagreements means less fighting, equals happier relationships. Given this messaging, our bickering made me worry about the health and stability of my relationship.
As I always do, I spoke to my therapist about how I was feeling and she told me that fighting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Conflict is normal in any kind of relationship and is often the way our concerns, opinions, and grievances get aired out. Research has also shown that fighting may actually mean that we care and can be an indicator of increased intimacy, which enhances relationships. It seems counter-intuitive, but arguments can, in fact, bring people closer together.
Firstly, there is a big difference between a throw-down fight and a disagreement. In any conflict, miscommunications and mistakes do happen and feelings will get hurt, but there is a healthy way to argue that will result in resolution, allowing you to feel closer to your partner, colleague, family member, or friend. What truly matters is not the number of arguments you have or even what they’re about — it’s how we fight that makes a difference. So, how do we deal with the tension in a healthy, constructive way?
Take a Pause
As I have mentioned before, when a conversation causes us stress, we typically react by wanting to jump in with the first words that come to mind (which are usually hurtful), not giving proper thought to what we are saying, how we are saying it, or the consequences that may follow. Taking a deliberate pause in the middle of a fight allows us to regroup, gather our thoughts, and check in with ourselves on what we really want to say and how we should say it.
Share Your Feelings
A lot of fights stem from our own insecurities, yet instead of sharing how we really feel, we often mask by being defensive or by showing anger, because that’s so much easier than showing shame or vulnerability. It is, however, important to speak our truths, not only to get to the root of the issue, but also because good relationships are about communication. As my favorite love guru, Esther Perel, has said, when people fight, it’s really about the lack of “affection, respect, power… or some combination of [the] three.” We need the courage to share how we really feel. If you need some tips on how to share your feelings, check out my blog here.
Put Yourself in The Other Person’s Shoes
The most important thing I’ve learned about fighting well is to acknowledge that the other person’s experiences are different from ours. We all have our own lens and it’s easy to lose sight of that in the heat of the moment and assume what the other person is feeling or thinking (especially when they’re a loved one you know well). But if you make a conscious effort to put yourself in their shoes, you might see where they are coming from. And when you do, chances are you’ll realize that they’re probably not the horrible person you painted in your mind, and are, in fact, coming from a place of woundedness.
By validating the other person’s interpretation of the situation, you might find that your own perspective changes, and suddenly you’re no longer fighting.
When you face your next fight, how will you deal with it? What are the questions you will ask yourself and the other person? How will you frame what you say and how you say it? And how will you listen to what they have to say?