How To Fight Better With Your Partner, According To Couples Who Have Been Together Forever
It seems like an oxymoron, right? How can you possibly fight better? Shouldn't we just not fight at all? Truth is, that's impossible and anyone who tells you different is either single or has an all too optimistic view of the world. Relationships are hard! You're devoting a large part of your life to another person—your insecurities, values, beliefs, space, body and time are all put on table and then you're just like, "OK now show me yours."
Chances are, you and your partner have a lot in common (which is why you love each other in the first place!) but once in a while, you might come across something you don't agree on. This could be something big (politics or family) or something tiny (the most efficient way to navigate the grocery store) and eventually, you have to work it out. That might mean asking your partner to change their behavior, that might mean changing your behavior, or maybe you find a healthy balance in the middle. Queue my second favorite relationship buzz-word (the first is communication), compromise.
But how do you get to that change or compromise without running in circles, saying things you don't mean, or breaking up and getting back together? I asked the Relationship Gods for advice on cracking this unanswered mystery—i.e. Bustle readers who've had their fair share of long-term love.
1. "Never Say Anything You Can't Take Back." -Jessica, 24
"The no name-calling is big, because once you call someone a "bitch" or an "asshole" it's harder to come back from."
2. "Bring Up Something That's Bothering You The Moment It's Bothering You." - Jessica, 24
In other words, communication!
"Oftentimes, my partner would do something that irked me or say something that worried me and I wouldn't say anything, not wanted to ruin the good vibes or be nit-picky. I thought that this was me "compromising." But in the end, when we actually did fight, I would end up using the fight as an excuse to unleash all of these little things that were bothering me. After we'd calmed down, I could explain that that stuff that seemed so out of the blue had actually been bothering me for a while. He told me he wished I'd just told him the second that it I started feeling that way rather than bottling it up and exploding later on. It's a good lesson to learn -- even if your partner does or says something that bothers you in an otherwise great-day context, it's still better to bring it up as soon as possible. The short-term hit to your good vibes is far more easily recovered from than the long-term hit to the openness and communicativeness of your relationship."
3. "Tell Each Other What [You] Want While [You're] Fighting." -Emma, 24
Think of each fight like a business meeting. Bear with me. You need to go into it understanding how you want the conversation to go. With no end goal, you'll end up fighting for hours before coming to a resolution, and maybe not coming to a resolution at all. Use phrases like, "I need you to listen to me right now," or "I really care about you, and want to have this conversation to make our relationship work better." Without making it clear to your partner why you're fighting, they might feel attacked when there's no end in sight.
4. "Respect The Fact That The Way Your Partner Deals With Conflict May Be Different From The Way You Do." -Emily, 31
Which is why you might be fighting in the first place—because your partner deals with things differently than you. No one said relationships were easy. But knowing your partners boundaries will not only help them come into the argument more peacefully, but also might benefit you in the long run. When your partner feels safe and heard, they are less likely to react in hurtful and detrimental ways.
"Be as aware as you can of what he/she needs in that moment and be sure to give it to them (i.e. let them walk away if they need time to think even if you might need to keep fighting)."
Emily also sought help from her boo and this is what he says, "Fight less." Ah. If only it were so simple.
5. "Give One Another Space." - Christie, 31
"But not too much space. Make it a point to go back and address the issue when you're both calm, or you'll just be fighting the same fight over and over again."
It's amazing what a few hours or days of thought can do for the mind. Talk to your friends and family about the issue, give yourself room to be angry or sad, and come back with a clearer head and a more constructive approach.
6. "Patience Is Also Key." - Christie, 31
You can't expect a person to change their behavior overnight. They might need to work on some of their core issues in order to accommodate you and this means you need to give them time and space to do this. Of course, this process of change can't go on forever. Know your limits too—it's critical to know how much you can deal with and how long you're willing to wait.
"No one person can change another. If you want something in the relationship to be a certain way, leading by example, not by nagging all the time, and giving that person a lot of time to get the hang of it, is the only way that I've seen works."
7. "Listening Is Key." - Sarah, 27
"When you're upset and you're not really hearing what your partner is saying, there's no way you're going to resolve the conflict in a healthy way. Put yourself in their shoes, and try REALLY HARD to understand what they're going through. They should do that for you, too. Most fights - at least in my experience - are about perspective."
Let's make that last sentence our mantra, shall we? We are not always exempt of guilt in fights, as much as we'd like to think we are. Maybe you did something that irked your partner too and listening to them will help you understand how you can be better and help your partner feel like they have stakes in the argument as well.
8. "Know Yourself." - Sarah, 27
"When I'm in a certain mood, I will do almost anything to be right - including changing my angle and denying on things I've said five minutes ago. I'm infuriated with myself just thinking about it, so I can only imagine how he feels. So, I try (with occasional success) not to do that. Bottom line: knowing yourself and your partner and respecting their perspective are essential to being able to come out of a fight with your head still on your shoulders and your love intact."
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