In any relationship, there will be conflict. The trick isn't to avoid it; it's learning to deal with those disagreements in a healthy, respectful way. It's a matter of fighting fair.
Kelly Olson, chief clinical officer at The Village, says couples shouldn't be afraid to talk about issues. Each person in a relationship should be available to hear the concerns of his or her partner, and help their partner feel validated for those concerns.
We also need to be aware of our own limits and cues. When is NOT the right time to have a discussion? Maybe you're not a morning person, or after work is a stressful time for you. When do you need to take a break from an argument?
Kelly has these 11 suggestions to help partners keep their arguments above the belt:
- Stick to the topic.
- Approach your partner at a time in which positive contact is likely.
- Try to see your partner’s perspective.
- Set couple rules. For example: No swearing. No bringing up past subjects. No calling names. Avoiding discussions while under the influence.
- Stick to these couple rules.
- Don’t involve the children or other bystanders.
- If the issue is a large conflict, agree on a time and place to discuss. This can also be used if discussion becomes too intense and you need to take a break.
- Use “I” messages: “I feel sad when you walk out the door before I am done talking.”
- Refrain from using sarcasm.
- Don’t criticize.
- Watch your tone of voice.
One last thought: When all is said and done, take ownership. Say you're sorry. We are all human, after all.
The Village's counselors can help couples and families improve the way they communicate and relate to one another. For more information, contact the office nearest you, or request an appointment online.