Most couples don't exactly look forward to fights, but the lucky thing is, there are ways to fight well. Then, there are ways to fight horribly. A lot of the things you shouldn't say during a fight are unfortunately normalized in our culture. So, to avoid making the fight unnecessarily taxing and adversarial, we have to be really conscious about how we speak to our partners.
Conflict is an inevitable part of most relationships, and it's nothing to avoid, emotional health expert and NYC-based psychotherapist Katherine Schafler tells Bustle. If you communicate your needs and concerns calmly before you lose your patience and start fighting, confrontation can actually be peaceful and productive. And if you fight civilly, make up as soon as possible, and make an effort to treat each other kindly afterward, arguing can bring you closer.
Another way to make sure conflict strengthens your relationship instead of weakening it is to avoid some common rhetorical tactics that put the other person down, send the message that you're not listening, and undermine your own case. Here are some things you should avoid saying during a fight if you want to get what you want and maintain respect for your partner.
1"Are You Done?"
Think about the courage it takes to confront your partner about something that bothers you. Now, think about how it would feel if you mustered that courage and were criticized for it.
"When someone's telling you how they feel about something and you interrupt with this little stinger at the first sign of silence, you're basically communicating that you don't care about anything that was just said and you've been waiting for your turn to prove you're the one who's right," says Schafler. "The impatient tone is bad enough, but it also adds a degree of dismissive that's likely to only anger your partner further."
Chances are, your partner doesn't actually never listen or always criticize you, so give them some credit. Making factually inaccurate statements will cause them to get defensive and tune out the kernel of truth that's in them. "Absolute statements paint people in black and white corners, and they usually dismiss the bigger perspective," says Schafler.
3"You're Such A..."
Never name-call. This is disrespectful whether it's directed toward your partner or your worst enemy. "Making character assassinations during an argument has no pros and is full of cons," says Schafler.
4"At Least I Don't..."
Implying that your partner's offense is worse than yours will put them on the defense, trivialize their concerns, and set the stage for an interaction in which you attack each other. "These statements of judgement usually come from a place of insecurity, and feeling as if you're being judged yourself," says Schafler. "You might be tempted to check, but two wrongs still don't make a right."
If your partner is hurting and you don't even react, that sends the message that you don't care about their pain. If you're staying silent because you don't like confrontation or prefer to have these conversations in writing, say that so your partner knows. Schafler suggests, "I'm really listening to everything you're saying and I care a lot. I just need time to think about this. I promise I'll revisit this with you when it feels more constructive." Then, get back to them as soon as you can.
Not saying these things can take quite a bit of impulse control, so if you're in too emotional a state to resist, excuse yourself and have the discussion once you've calmed down. If you do slip and say something inappropriate during a fight, apologize as soon as possible so that you don't give your partner another reason to be angry. Your original concerns will remain unaddressed and continue to fester if you just end up fighting about the fight itself.