Couples Who Fight Effectively: 7 Practices
Fighting with your partner is not fun. Plain and simple. Sometimes its downright awful, and even scary when things get really out of hand. But what if I told you that fighting is actually something that happens regularly in happy marriages. In fact, couples who fight regularly tend to be happier than those who don’t. Think about it, the idea behind two people spending as much time together as you do with your partner and getting along the vast majority of that time is mind boggling. It generally means, that the two of you aren’t being fully honest about your feelings with yourselves and with each other.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that ALL fighting is good or that dysfunctional fighting isn’t a thing. It is. And that type of fighting is not what creates happy marriages. You shouldn’t be throwing plates at each other, or hitting each other. That would be abuse. What happy couples know how do to is to argue productively. Here are 7 things couples who fight productively practice and strive for in their marriage.
1. They’re not there to win
I’m not sure why this is such a challenge for so many of us, myself included, but it is. The reason why is because we all have this little thing inside our head called the ego. This is what stops us from knowing what is best for our relationships and instead convinces us that we need to be right for our own validation of our self-worth.
If you come into an argument with the notion that you are right and your partner is wrong, then you will be left with those results: you are right, they are wrong, and there will be no understanding. But the whole point of having an argument in the first place is to come up with a solution. If that is not your goal when you are arguing, you need to re-think how you approach issues with your partner. This is not easy. I have struggled with it. Just like everything else it takes practice to improve this behavior.
2. They validate each other’s feelings.
This one is the direct solution to the problem of “winning” an argument. Successful couples work on concentrating on trying to understand what their partner is feeling and validating it as true. Are they perfect at it? No. But they continue to work on realizing that there is such a thing as concurrent truth. Both partner’s feelings are true and valid in so many cases. Successful couples practice realizing that they’re partner’s feelings are as valid as their own.
3. They try not to blow things out of proportion
One way that many arguments escalate is when one or both parties involved make a bigger deal out of something small. After this happens the first time, it happens a second, and then a third. And this causes a chain reaction of angry behavior that escalates into non-productive yelling. Especially when the first over-reaction was based on misunderstanding. We just recently went through a phase when this was happening a lot it our daily lives. It just caused unnecessary fights that achieved nothing but maybe some trauma, and hoarse voices.
These were not pleasant memories, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Instead, be cognizant of being over-sensitive, and listen to your partner’s intention. Try to be aware of what they were trying to say, and give them a chance to repeat to be clear. We don’t always say what we intended the first time. Be forgiving, instead of reactionary.
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4. They listen
This seems like it would be obvious, but again, it is actually incredibly difficult to do well. But its something that couples who fight effectively have mastered. An incredibly common block while fighting is constant interruption. When we interrupt each other, we are letting our ego take over. We’re telling our partners that their feelings are not valid. Our feelings are more important. The first step in learning how to listen is to stop talking and listen. After you do this, the door is open to continue listening and try to understand where your partner is coming from. Which bring me to the next point….
5. They practice empathy
The next step in becoming an incredible listener, is to understand your partner. They only way to do this is to learn how to empathize with your partner. Empathy is simply understanding another’s feelings. The best way to do this is to put yourself in their position. If you can see things from your partner’s perspective often, they will be grateful and very likely return the favor. This takes fighting from two frustrated people trying to be understood, to two people who feel cared for, and loved.
6. They are good at apologizing
Apologizing is so much more than just saying “I’m sorry.” Although, just saying it is a challenge for many of us. However, it is important to think of apologizing as a process. There are 5 steps to apologizing. 1. Understand you partner first. Be the one to set the example. If you both do this, then you will understand each other2. Express remorse. 3. Admit responsibility (be specific). 4. Make amends. 5. Promise to do everything in your power to avoid doing it again. Couples who fight effectively are experts on apologizing. This is the step that brings couples closer together because of their disagreement. This is the manifestation of empathy, and validating each other’s feelings.
7. They move on
Once you learn how to apologize properly, this next step will be easier. Forgiveness. It is much easier to forgive when you have been properly apologized to. However, for the larger issues that your relationship has struggled with in the past, whatever they may be, apologize properly for them, and move on with your lives. If you are dwelling in your past too much, then you have little hope for your future. We all do shitty things to our spouses from time to time. Katie has to me, and I to her. We’re not proud of it. But what we are proud of is how we were able to let it go, move on, and become closer for it. You can do this too!