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All couples experience some level of conflict. In fact, eliminating conflict altogether is not the goal in healthy, satisfying romantic relationships as conflict is unavoidable.
What matters most is how conflict is managed and resolved. How you handle uncomfortable feelings, disagreements, and differing opinions, preferences, and desires, as well as how you behave during contentious times, determines whether you help resolve an argument or make things worse over time.
If you find yourself stuck in a pattern of fighting with your partner, consider implementing small changes to alleviate tension, resolve issues more quickly and effectively, and stop feeling stuck. The topics brought up during a fight are not necessarily problematic, but the disconnection they cause can interfere with healthy communication.
Here are nine tips to stop fighting with your boyfriend:
You are in charge of your behavior, and how you choose to respond during conflict makes a huge difference in the outcome. Applying effective strategies is especially difficult when you are already feeling triggered, disconnected, or judged. However, you have a major opportunity to create new patterns with your partner through your own insight and behavioral change.
Yes, it’s harder to show up as your best self when you are upset, but your reactions, such as getting defensive or losing your temper, can escalate conflict instead of leading to resolution.
That’s why it is important to examine your role in creating and handling conflict and apologize when necessary. For example, do you criticize your partner when you are feeling insecure instead of speaking up about your feelings? Do you tend to pick apart your partner, which creates defensiveness in your partner and leads to a full-blown argument? Are your reactions (words and behavior) coming from the current situation or a past emotional wound?
Consider how your behavior and responses are influencing how a disagreement with your partner progresses and find ways to break any unhealthy relationship habits that are contributing to conflict.
Often what couples are fighting about in the present does not represent the true source of the discord. With some introspection, you may find that what you are angry or upset about is often connected to an unmet need or insecurity. Therefore, what bothers you in the moment may not be the real issue.
For instance, if you find yourself snapping at your partner for loading the dishwasher the wrong way, consider what may really be bothering you. Are you struggling to accept that your boyfriend may do things differently than you? Are you angry that your partner is generally considerate about keeping your home clean, but isn’t very articulate about showing love and affection in other ways?
Consider what’s beneath the surface when you find yourself agitated, complaining, disappointed or angry at your partner and identify ways you can learn to compromise.
Reflect on what you are looking for and what you desire from your relationship. What is missing for you? Is the present situation bringing up old hurt or trauma from a past experience? Getting to the bottom of what’s really bothering you will lead to better communication.
Communicate your feelings, needs, and beliefs using “I” statements, and avoid simply pointing fingers and assigning blame. It’s essential to give any feedback in a constructive and kind way without being overly critical or judgmental, which will likely result in your boyfriend getting defensive.
You can stop a cycle of blame from emerging by staying calm, being assertive (and not aggressive) and owning your experience.
For example, instead of saying “You always put your friends before me,” say “I feel worried when it seems you are prioritizing your social life over our relationship. I wish we could have more quality time together.”
Focus on sharing your feelings and speaking up about your needs. Be sure to leave out any accusatory or antagonist language. Most importantly, avoid threats, ultimatums, name-calling, yelling, and any form of emotional or verbal abuse.
Don’t focus on building a case against him. Conflict resolution takes two, so approaching issues as a team is a must.
If you approach the situation as if your boyfriend is your enemy, you are likely to act in destructive ways. This is also true if your main goal is to control your boyfriend, punish him or win every argument.
If you make your goal that of getting back on the same page with your partner and better understand each other’s perspectives (even if you disagree), you will more easily create emotional intimacy and make repairs. Acknowledging that you are on the same team will also help generate a more understanding, collaborative, and unified approach.
Be sure to give equal opportunities to speak and listen. When you are in the listener role, make it your goal to understand your partner’s unique experience without judgment. Eliminate distractions, give your partner your full attention and don’t interrupt him.
Be sensitive to your partner’s feelings even if they differ from yours. Be respectful, have an open mind, and remember you don’t have to agree on every detail to make peace and move forward.
Managing emotional reactivity when things are feeling tense may feel downright impossible. However, slowing things down will help tremendously.
Don’t be afraid to take a pause or time-out to cool down and gather your thoughts. There’s no reason to continue fighting if you’ve already lost your temper and are only going to say things you don’t mean. Deep breaths, moments of solitude, or a walk in nature can be therapeutic and lead to more effective communication once you’ve calmed down.
Remember you are responsible for your own reactivity. Learning to sit with discomfort and slowing down the pace of communication when things are getting out of hand are valuable tools for de-escalation.
By being aware of what’s happening in your body, you can gain important clues about your emotions and better manage them. For example, anxiety may bring on sweating, a rapid heart rate, faster breathing, restlessness, and stomach sensations.
Anger may manifest as an increased heart rate, clenched fists, forgetfulness, chest pain, and a tightening in your abdomen as anger sets off a chemical response that prepares you for fight or flight. Being more connected to your body can provide valuable information about how you are feeling, and then you can respond accordingly.
The key is to approach your mind and body with curiosity and resist any judgment, so you can use healthy self-care and coping strategies to better manage emotions. When you are feeling emotionally flooded or in fight-or-flight mode, it’s essential to take a break and calm down before proceeding.
Be honest with your partner about needing a break and use self-soothing strategies, such as deep breathing, meditation, and positive self-talk. Also, know when it’s time to let go. Not all fights are worth having!
As you can gather from the bullets above, even with the best of intentions, it can be challenging to keep your cool when you are emotionally wound up or in a heated situation.
Agreeing to ground rules ahead of time may help you and your boyfriend stick to them. Rules such as no name-calling, apologize like you mean it, listen with a genuine intention to understand each other and not simply defend yourself, and agree to take breaks when necessary are examples of strategies for fighting fair.
Science shows that happy, stable couples have five or more positive interactions for every negative interaction during conflict. Being in a satisfying relationship will allow the troubling times to be smoother.
If you have enough in the emotional bank and are generally attuned to one another, you will be more open to listening, compromising, problem-solving, and meeting your partner’s needs during disagreements, and vice versa. Feedback will come from a more loving, warm, and collaborative place.
It’s important to have a sense of what’s going on in your partner’s life through verbal communication. Also, show love, gratitude and care through non-verbal communication, quality time, and physical touch. Have consistent date nights, support each other’s individual goals and interests, and don’t take each other for granted.
Rather, it’s about stopping the cycle of conflict and better managing disagreements through intentional awareness and action.
Viewing your partner as a team mate, monitoring your own reactivity, and making repair attempts by listening, apologizing, and increasing understanding are strategies that will help you reduce negativity and enjoy your relationship more.