Fighting between couples is unavoidable. According to Denise Schipani writing for Woman's Day, it's much healthier for the relationship when it's done regularly — as opposed to a huge blowout every six months. This might sound surprising given that we consider arguments to be spontaneous, unpleasant situations to avoid whenever possible, but hear me out.
You're probably thinking, "If we argue back and forth all the time, the relationship is doomed to fail!" Goodbye hopes and dreams and happily ever after, right? Not so. Here's another fact that may surprise you. There are ways to argue with your mate that can actually bring you closer, open the pathway for the best relationship you've ever had and keep both of you sane. These seven simple rules for fighting need to be honed like any skill, but once you've got them down, you'll be one step closer to mastering the art of relationships.
Timing is Everything
Have you considered putting a time limit on your discussion? It might sound contrived, but staying in control of your emotions and the situation, out of respect for your relationship, is what it's all about. If you don't think your partner will go for setting an egg timer at the start of a disagreement, do it yourself. Pay attention to your watch, then after 20 minutes, offer to take a break and cool down or make a mental note to yourself that it's time to start getting to a resolution. This helps you avoid that whole going to bed angry thing, which is a great goal by the way.
Mary Poppins Your Approach
Remember that bit Mary had in the classic film where she danced around the room singing about making the medicine go down with a spoonful of sugar? That's how you need to approach your communication, especially if you're about to argue with a man. Diana Kirschner, Ph.D, writes on Psychology Today that men are especially sensitive to criticism and they're hard-wired to stay bitter longer than women.
One way to begin an argument is by calling out something good you appreciate in your partner that relates to the situation, then follow up with a gentle rebuke that your feelings were hurt or you were upset by a certain behavior. It's important to make him feel the love, even in an argument. He's more likely to return it and actually take your critiques to heart. Men also respond well to physical comfort, so feel free to lay a hand on his knee as you speak.
Stay Focused on the Issues
Things can get out of hand quickly, which is why you have to stay vigilant. This isn't the time to talk about something that happened a year ago at the family reunion. And don't let your partner go there, either. Keep your voice calm throughout and stick to what this particular disagreement is about. Do this enough times and there won't be any year-old problems to discuss. That's a nice bonus.
Use the Mirror Effect
Behavioral experts say that subtly mirroring the body language of an opponent helps at the negotiating table. For example, if he crosses his legs, wait a minute, and cross yours in the same way. This can send a subconscious message of understanding and kinship. Another mirror effect involves repeating what's been said to you in order to show you're making a concerted effort to understand someone else's viewpoint. A simple, "Let me make sure I understand…" can do the trick to diffuse bad feelings.
When you feel yourself drifting away (which happens more than we'd like to admit) during an argument, practice bringing yourself back into the present moment. One way to do this is by focusing on a small part of your body, such as the sensation in your toes or fingertips. You can also focus on your breathing. Keep listening, imagine how your partner might feel and stay present in the moment. You can practice presence any time, and you should, so it becomes almost automatic during arguments.
Forget About Being Right
There's a truth about human nature none of us wants to hear. Generally speaking, the more you insist you're right, the more you're convincing someone you're wrong. Not only is it insecure, but it incites rebellion. So, forget about being right. It never gets anyone anywhere, which brings us to our next point.
Concede and Agree
Ending an argument on a positive note with a hug, a kiss and a compliment is always the way to go because it allows you to let it go. Really. Although, that positive place is hard to get to unless someone concedes and agrees. Even if it's to agree to disagree. Let that person be you. You'll be surprised at how leading with that example will provide for their concession and agreement over time, all on their own. Magic words when you want to wrap it up are to agree with how they feel and admit the other person is right for their viewpoint. It was Ghandi who advised us to be the change we want to see.