I’m often asked by clients and friends, “Is it normal to argue in a relationship?” Often times, we hear of these “perfect” couples who “never” fight. I’m here, today, to tell you that every single relationship is different and unique. Arguments, in moderation and when healthily handled, are not only normal but are essential to fostering authenticity, true understanding and effective communication in relationships. Not only is this true for romantic relationships, but also within friendships, families and even the professional world.
Today’s post focuses on how to turn conflict into an opportunity within romantic relationships and partnerships, but you can absolutely take these steps and apply them to other areas of your life. I hope you’ll learn some valuable techniques that will allow you to view conflict in a totally different light and as an effective tool to creating ultimate closeness and collaboration in your relationship – when you do it right, of course.
Ready to learn how to “fight fair” and come out of an argument feeling even more in love? I know, it might be hard to believe, but it’s possible and you’re 100% capable. Keep on reading!
1. Embrace the Conflict and Maintain Intentionality
When you sense an argument beginning, or when you actively within a conflict, allow yourself to consider the moment as an opportunity for personal and partnership growth. Enter into it with the intention of coming away stronger and not coming away as the stronger partner. Conflict should not be about proving that you are a better partner or seeing who can shout the loudest or deliver the most digs. It’s about giving both partners the opportunity to be heard and to speak, no matter what the subject, in order to explore the possibility coming away as a closer and better balanced unit.
2. Be Realistic
I like this step, or technique, because it makes us take a step back and really check ourselves. What are we arguing about? What do we honestly hope to gain? If you’re feeling as though your partner isn’t spending enough time with you or you feel as though you haven’t been connecting, don’t begin an argument about the dirty dishes in the sink and allow it to snowball from there. Be realistic about what’s bothering you, why this conflict exists, and go from there. Also be realistic about your own role and responsibility in the conflict and embrace the reality that your partner may have his or her own points of tension to discuss.
3. Listen, Listen, Listen!
You likely know how awful the feeling of not being heard can be. Expressing yourself and feeling as though your words and feelings are not being recognized or acknowledged can be incredibly hurtful. So, when it comes time to engage in conflict, remember to listen. When you engage in the conversation in the capacity of an active listener, you are more likely to have your partner offer the same respect and opportunity for you, then, to be heard. Listen carefully, acknowledge your partner’s words, and then speak. Don’t interrupt, avoid playing the blame game and respect your partner during conflict the same as you’d respect them at the best of times. After all, the conflict will come to a close and your goal is to come away strengthened.
4. Know Your Words Have Meaning
When speaking, understand that every word has meaning. It can be easy to say things that we truly do not mean in the heat of the moment, and that’s why it’s more important than ever before to choose our words carefully and honestly in conflict. Say how you are truly feeling in simple and clear language. Communicate your issues and your requests in the same way. Try your best to avoid metaphors, hypotheticals and other devices that could be seen as argumentative or even cause confusion. When expressing how something makes you feel, say it just that way! Use “I” statements such as, “When that happens, I feel this way” and avoid generalising statements or accusations.
5. Keep Moving Forward
When a conflict comes to a close and you both walk away from the argument (ideally, together) you must agree to keep moving forward and to leave the past in the past. When you reach a resolution in a conflict, it’s so incredibly important to not continue to bring up the argument in the future. Comments like, “See? I told you!” or “This is what I mean, you always do this” are examples of communication to try and avoid. Choose something like – observe first, “I am not making your wrong but this is an example of what we spoke about on Saturday. It makes me feel dismissed. But again, I am not mad and you are not wrong, I just want to point out this example.” – then make affectionate physical contact in some way. This will allow moments of conflict or tension to transform into opportunities for learning and growth and, ultimately, your relationship to strengthen and flourish.