How To Fight Healthy In Your Relationship
In my 25-year career as a social worker and therapist, I have worked with many people largely within the context of their relationships and I have seen how a healthy productive disagreement can work to support the growth of the relationship.
Nothing in life is stagnant, life forces us to change and to grow, the direction we go in is up to us and if we are willing to engage in this process with our partners by learning how to engage in a productive fight then we are one step ahead of the rest of them.
Below are 10 rules that you can use with your partner to think about how you can engage more proactively when there is a disagreement.
1. Set ground rules.
One of the first things you can do inside a healthy relationship is to think about the times that are difficult between you and your partner. Sit down together and think constructively about the fights that you may have had and identify the rules of engagement. This will likely be much of what I have identified below.
2. Listen to each other.
Ensure that you are listening more than you are speaking. Taking turns is a helpful strategy to make sure that you are listening more than talking to your partner or at least as much.
3. Use “I” statements.
Speak from your experience and try not to use the word, “you”. This puts people on the defensive and is rarely helpful when trying to engage in a positive, productive conversation. This will also keep you from blaming each other which has no place in a healthy disagreement. If you have a feeling about what your partner did, describe how what they did made you feel; “when you talked to… it made me feel…” rather than “you are trying to make me jealous by talking to …”.
4. Stay on topic, don’t bring up old issues from the past.
It’s important to work through one issue at a time, of course as time marches on we have more experiences with the person that may not have been fully resolved which is when they emerge in other arguments. If you have unresolved conflicts with your partner then it is important to address them separately.
5. A healthy argument is never physical. Ever!
This includes getting in someone’s face, putting your hands on them or them on you, or throwing objects. It also includes threats of physical harm to you or any other member of the family, be it 4 legged or 2 legged.
6. Stay engaged, no Stonewalling.
Don’t shut down and use silence as a way to gain power and control in the conversation, if you need a break, say it and decide together that you will come back to this at another time.
7. Respect the lowest measure of comfort in the argument or fight.
As I mentioned before, we all have a different barometer and different tolerance for arguments and fighting. Some people are ok with a lively discussion and others may identify that as an ugly fight. The rule of thumb should be the person with the lowest level of comfort.
8. Keep an open mind.
To engage in a productive argument, you must be able to hear what the other person is saying and not have any preconceived ideas. Don’t go into the argument with your mind made up about what did or didn’t happen for the other person, be open to seeing things differently than how you went into the discussion.