Fighting Is Useful! How To Make The Most Of Scrapping With Your Spouse
Every couple fights. Some may claim that they don’t, but disagreements, mood swings and frustration are a normal part of human functioning, so it follows that arguments occur naturally in intimate relationships. Whether your disagreements centre around who does the dishes or how much you money you should save for retirement, fights help us to express our emotions, negotiate boundaries and acknowledge the inevitable differences in personality, needs and expectations between partners.
While some elements of fighting (e.g. personal attacks) can be destructive, research suggests that fighting doesn’t simply move your relationship forward, but it might also be good for your health. Several studies suggest that those who hash out their differences and express their emotions -- both positive and negative -- live longer, as squelching anger has negative health consequences.
If you want to live a longer, happier life, here are a few tips to get the most out of your fights and use them as constructive springboard toward happily ever after:
Invoke The Third-Person
Humans are hard-wired for self-interest, so it makes sense that we become defensive when we feel we’re under attack. However, we’re also naturally drawn to empathy and companionship, so as hard as it may be, putting our own needs aside during a fight can actually be self-serving and create a win-win situation.
The next time you’re fighting, take a few deep breaths and think about the core issue from a third-person perspective. If you were looking in from the outside, how might you see each of your viewpoint’s differently? If your fight was being observed by someone you respect (e.g. your mom, your boss or your best friend), how might you behave differently? Utilizing the third-person perspective will inevitably help you to fight more fairly.
Don’t Be A Perfectionist
Some issues can be fully resolved and others all continue to crop up throughout the course of your relationship. This doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed, but simply that there is no such thing as the perfect match. Ask yourself whether the issue you’re fighting about or the associated principle will matter to you in five years — if not, let it go.
Sometimes we fight about the big issues and sometimes we fight about who left the wet clothes in the washing machine overnight. At the beginning of every fight, take a moment to identify the specific point(s) of contention before moving forward. If you’re fighting about petty issues, think about the underlying issue or principle that is really upsetting you and/or your partner. Are you really upset about the wet clothes or are you dealing with broader resentment regarding division of household labour? By identifying the root issue, you can help to avoid similar disagreements in the future.
End with a Plan
Once the tension and emotions have cooled (this could be two hours or two days later), revisit the issue in a lighthearted manner and talk about how you might avoid or effectively resolve similar conflicts in the future. For example, if you were fighting about the laundry, you might decide to draw up a chore list to balance responsibilities in the home.
If your communication skills during the fight were less than stellar (e.g. you started screaming insults and bringing up past events in anger), think about how you can calm yourself down or adjust your communication style the next time you get angry. Finally, if your partner’s communication style wasn't particularly constructive (e.g. they were passive-aggressive), tell them specifically how you’d like them to respond when you’re upset. For example, you might want them to simply listen and acknowledge your frustration or you may prefer that they give you a few minutes to cool down. Even fighting involves a personal style and the more you know about one another’s preferences, the more likely you are to avoid and quell disagreements productively in the future.
Read More By Dr. Jess:
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