In Part 1 & 2 of our 4-part Relationship Communication Series, we’ve uncovered that:
Now that you fully understand how important it is to focus on regulating your own emotions and feelings, it’s time to teach you how to fight fair. In our tireless investigation of the best communication methods in marriage, we came across some experts don’t believe in fighting in at all….and others who believe that not fighting ever is a problem of its own. Today, we’ll help you to understand just how to dialogue in order to preserve your happily ever after.
Is it possible not to fight at all in your marriage? Well, that depends on how you define the word “fight.” Experts at Psychology Today believe that fighting has no place within the intimacy of marriage. “Arguing, at any level of intensity, reflect(s) a breakdown in partnership,” states Denver-based, Clinical Psychologist Susan Heitler. “It means you have switched to a stance of being opponents, arguing for yourself and against your partner. Fighting is adversarial dialogue; the goal is to win, not to build mutual understanding.”
Instead, she recommends “talking cooperatively,” a communication strategy in which couples utilize side-by-side problem solving to come to a win-win consensus. Conflict is inevitable; fighting is not. Heitler continues, “Conflict indicates rather that you need to cool down and then do the win-win waltz, talking cooperatively talk together to find a solution that leaves you both feeling good.”
While we agree that this approach seems to be the most positive method of communicating in any serious relationship, we’re all human! At times when you are feeling strong emotions, it can feel impossible to cool down–no matter how many time-outs that you take to distance yourself from the conversation. Is Heitler’s method a best-case-scenario standard to which we should all strive? Absolutely…but maybe it’s simply not realistic for your relationship right now.
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At times when you are beyond heated with your partner, the mere thought of doing the win-win waltz might be a bit nauseating. You’re angry…but, at the end of the day, you still want your relationship to work. If you believe that a fight is inevitable, you can, at least, take steps to ensure that you’re fighting fairly.
In an article for the New York Times, John Gottman, a Psychologist at the University of Washington in Seattle discussed how fighting the “good fight” may actually improve your future happiness in your relationship. Gottman states, “The most fruitful fights, the study showed, were those in which the partners felt free to be angry with each other, felt they made themselves understood to their partner, and finally came to a resolution involving some degree of compromise. Such fights, according to Dr. Gottman, give a couple the strong sense that they can weather conflict together.”
Want to learn the rules of fighting fairly? Click here to head over to Part 4 of our Relationship Communication Series.