You're heated. You're like, a split second from a Gordon Ramsey-esque, swear word laden tirade. Like, you want to throw dishes and everything. Or, at least, that's what your insides feel like. Strategies for resolving huge disagreements can get you to the other side of your fight while preserving your dignity and the feelings of your partner (as much as that's possible during a huge disagreement).
As a former Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I've seen these strategies work for people in the throes of disagreements that would have otherwise lead to horrific violence. That means if you keep your cool and think (and feel) your way through both sides of the issue, your (hopefully health) relationship should have a much easier go of it.
Disagreements are no walk in the park. Especially when you have to suck it up and be a bigger person. But the good thing about equality and fairness is that your partner is also sucking it up and being a bigger person, so the respect goes both ways. And if you can keep the respect (and love) at the forefront of your disagreement, you'll be able to navigate even the toughest times together as a team. And that's what a relationship is all about right? Being a team? I think so.
1. Check Your Motives
Are you looking for a resolution or are you trying to be right? It's satisfying to get your way, but is getting your way more important than your relationship? Because if your ego is getting in the way of real problem solving, you could be doing permanent damage. Take some time to think about things before you dive into discussions, especially heated ones. Consider what life would realistically be like if you "won" or "lost" and decide if it's worth the stress and hurt of a big disagreement.
2. Set Some Boundaries
If you're in a healthy relationship, you should already have healthy boundaries established, but just in case, it's important to lay down some disagreement ground rules. Make it so both of you can take time if you need it. Establish a minimum for respect, such as no name calling or blaming.
3. Tap Into Your Feels & The Facts Equally
It's easy to get caught up in the feels of a disagreement, but you can't be ruled by them. You have to approach things with a little bit of a practical mindset. On the flip side, you can't be all rational and ignore your feelings. Striking this balance requires work and a lot of soul searching sometimes, but it's the most honest way to express your side of things and process your partner's side of things.
4. Acknowledge Each Other's Feelings
This is probably the best advice I can give you when it comes to facing big disagreements. You won't always agree, but you can always acknowledge how the other person feels. For example, if your partner has hurt feelings over something you said, but you wholeheartedly disagree that what you said was hurtful, you can still say "I'm sorry your feelings are hurt, it wasn't my intent" instead of "You know I didn't mean it that way." People just want to feel understood sometimes.
5. Find The Middle
You're sure you're right. So is your partner. You're not getting anywhere. Neither of you wants to budge. Well, unfortunately, if you want to resolve your disagreement and move on, you're going to have to meet in the middle. You give up something, your partner gives up something, and you keep at it until you both feel like you're getting the fair end of the stick.
6. Remember What Matters
It doesn't really matter if you're right or wrong. What matters is that your partner is upset. You can apologize for that, and still have your opinion. At the end of the day, it's not about keeping score, it's about your love. Even if you're dead set that you're right and that your partner is being unreasonable, you can still try to put yourself in their shoes and try to see things from their perspective. And it helps to keep in mind that this person is the one you love more than most people in the galaxy.
7. Drop It
Once you reach an agreement, move on and let it go. That means no bringing it up in future fights, or holding it against each other in your bad moments. Accept that your compromise was just that, a compromise, meaning you both got some good and some bad out of it. That's how grown up relationships just have to work sometimes. If it's something you absolutely still can't let go of, it's worth talking about again, but if you're just bringing it up for a dig, let it go.
If these strategies don't get you to the other side of your disagreement, it might be time to hash things out with a couples counselor. After all, you'd take your car to the mechanic if you couldn't figure out how to fix it, right?
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