No relationship is perfect. There are bound to be challenging conversations, conflicts and concerns along the way. While these can cause discomfort, they certainly do not need to lead to disaster.
“Conflict is inevitable and sometimes you need to understand that it is neither good nor bad,” says Dr. Kelsey Bradshaw, a clinical psychologist with Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “As humans, we have differing views, opinions, perspectives and needs. You must be aware of these differences and be willing to address them.”
According to Dr. Bradshaw, it is when couples try to be conflict-free that you tend to experience even more challenges. Instead, he says, it is important to learn how to “fight fair” in a healthy way with love, respect and dignity.
“To ‘fight fair,’ you need to know yourself and your partner,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “Fighting can be difficult to avoid, so you need to know what things specific to your partner that you should not say. When your emotional mind is activated, you are more prone to say things impulsively that you will later regret.”
5 tips for fighting fair
Dr. Bradshaw offers his top 5 tips for fighting fair:
- Learn how to approach conflict in an assertive, yet calm, manner.
- Understand healthy boundaries and practice empathy.
- Walk away from a conflict if things escalate and are not likely to improve.
- Allow a “cool-down” period, but be sure to address the original issue at a later time.
- Recognize that sometimes you will fall on different sides of an argument, or that you don’t have the same beliefs or views as your partner.
“Each individual needs to recognize that the other’s opinion, view or perspective may not change and then determine whether that is a barrier to the relationship continuing,” Dr. Bradshaw says.
If your views are not likely to change on something significant, such as having children, the relationship might need to be reconsidered. In other less weighty situations, there may be possibilities to compromise or work toward acceptance of having differing perspectives or needs.
If you find yourself and your partner repeating the same argument time and again, it may be due to not adequately addressing the conflict or failing to try to understand the other’s perspective.
“People often don’t recognize that they engage in passive or even passive-aggressive communication, which often adds to repeat fighting,” he says. “One of the most helpful, yet difficult, suggestions is to focus on empathy. When you work to listen to and empathize with your partner, you open up the potential for dialogue and a better understanding of one another.”
Making up isn’t hard to do
Once both parties are calm, Dr. Bradshaw notes that it is important to recognize that you both may have made mistakes or said something you shouldn’t have in the heat of the moment. However, you have the ability to repair the situation if you can avoid blame and recognize your own role in the fight.
“Take turns talking about your own perspective and recognize that neither perspective is incorrect,” he says. “Focus on expressing feelings and your needs as you move forward and be sure to continue to validate your partner’s emotions and perspective.”