Are you fighting with your partner?
Conflict, fights, and disagreements happen in all relationships; it’s inevitable. What matters is how you handle those fights and disagreements that determine how detrimental they are to you and your relationship. Most people associate fighting with feeling bad, hurting each other, winning/losing, trying to get their partner to change their mind, or fighting without any resolution. All of those are very common in relationship arguments, but are signs of unhealthy fighting styles. A major focus of couples/marriage counseling and premarital therapy is to teach couples how to disagree in ways that are respectful and healthy.
How do we know if our fighting is a problem for our relationship?
To determine if the arguments and fights in your relationship are problematic or healthy, you simply have to ask yourself how you feel during and after a disagreement. Do you feel respected, heard, and feel the issue was resolved? Or, do you feel hurt, frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, devastated, or hopeless? Those are the differences in how the types of fighting make you feel, but there are also some common patterns that happen during unhealthy arguments that you may recognize.
- Does one or both of you get angry and storm off?
- Do you call each other names?
- Do you criticize each other?
- Does either of you roll their eyes, scoff, or mock the other during arguments?
- Does one of you shut down and stop engaging?
- Does a fight about one topic turn into another or continuously change?
- Do you blame each other?
- Does one of you get defensive?
- Do you stay upset with each other for hours or days after a fight?
- Do you avoid certain topics so that it doesn’t turn into a fight
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you are not fighting fair. Most people are never taught how to disagree with their partner’s in a healthy, respectful way. So, we do what we know. Chances are that you learned how to argue from your parents or other authority figures, and are just carrying on their ineffective strategies. Just because it is what you have always known, doesn’t mean it has to continue. Unfair fighting strategies lead to numerous other relationship problems.
Why is our fighting style important?
How a couple handles disagreements and fights is indicative of whether the relationship will be able to last long-term. Several of the most destructive fighting styles have been identified and can be used to predict divorce or a break-up. That’s why it is so important to address this during premarital therapy or couples counseling. There are several reasons for this. First, how a couple fights is usually a good indicator of how they feel about each other the rest of the time. When one partner acts contemptuous or overly critical, there is usually some underlying thought pattern that makes this come out during an argument. If, most of the time, you respect, value, appreciate, trust, and feel secure with your partner, then you won’t feel the need to hit below the belt when they don’t agree with you.
The second reason that fighting is important to the longevity of a marriage or relationship is that unhealthy fighting styles lead to a buildup of resentment, instability in the relationship, a lack of security, and diminished respect. All of which are detrimental to the foundation of relationships. Healthy relationships cannot function without love, appreciation, and respect. If you value your relationship, then you want to be able to express that even during the disagreements and difficult times.
How do we learn to fight fair?
We can work together to break down your individual and combined fighting styles, and see what’s not working. Perhaps one of you avoids conflict while the other doesn’t shy away from a fight. Maybe one of you uses criticism during disagreements and that causes the other to get defensive. Whatever your pattern, we can find out why it is occurring and how to stop it. Once the ineffective communication and fighting styles have been addressed, you will learn methods for how to replace those patterns with effective strategies. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the other. So, we will determine what communication strategies work for you both as individuals and then develop something that works for you both as a couple. You will leave with a map that is unique to your relationship, which will allow you to communicate effectively, and disagree respectfully.