There’s nothing like the beginning of a relationship. That giddy, soft-focus feeling, when every mushy pop song out there seems to be written just for you. But what about the day the music stops? The first time a couple fights is like a Bollywood movie in reverse; just like that, all the gooey love turns into yelling and name-calling. It’s a shock, especially after that glorious honeymoon period. Both sides end up wounded and wondering, “What could have gone so wrong?”
Some people believe good couples don’t fight. Not true! The difference between happy and unhappy couples is how they fight - constructively and destructively. The key is to fight fair, and that means obeying a few simple ground rules.
Don’t go off topic
Don’t say ‘oh and another thing…’ and drag in all kinds of different issues. Another important rule: If things start to get out of hand, remove yourself from the situation. If there’s name-calling and shouting, just tell the other person that the conversation isn’t productive anymore and ask for him/her to revisit it at another time.
Check your expectations
Even before the argument begins, it helps to recognize what’s normal. Relationships have limits. Your significant other is not going to be your everything. You won’t always agree, and you won’t always be able to convert the other side to your view — sometimes you have to agree to disagree.
There is no winner
If you win then the other half loses, so in the end you both lose. Your relationship is in worse shape than it was before. What’s more, the loser may harbour resentment, which may in turn fuel the next fight. And so the cycle continues.
Talk less, listen more
Many fights boil down to a feeling of not being heard, but we react to this feeling ignored. We raise our voices, and that just escalates the fight. It causes people to shut down. Paradoxically, the louder you yell, the less you are heard. The solution is to talk less and listen more. If the other person is yelling at you, don’t fight back. Listen and ask questions. If you know how to do it, you feel really powerful.
Understand the triggers
Couples tend to fight over relatively trivial matters, but beneath that complaint there often lies a more profound emotional issue. It’s usually a core issue from childhood that’s triggered when we fight. And in order to really fight fair, we need to know what we’re actually fighting about.
Digging into one’s childhood to figure out why you felt the way you did during a fight may sound a bit extreme, but the very act of asking these questions and looking beyond the fight is itself helpful.
Finally, don’t wait for your fifteenth fight to start putting this advice into action. Your first fights are precious, because at the start of a relationship, you’re more likely to be kind. Once you let resentment build then that can change — some couples actually try to trigger each other into fights, and it becomes all about blame and shame.
So when that first fight starts, embrace it. The honeymoon period may have ended, but your real relationship is just beginning.
Content modified for use with permission from Men’s Life TodayFirst Published: May 14, 2012 at 3:20 PM