One of the greatest fallacies about what makes a good relationship is the notion that fighting is bad. As I see couple after couple in my office, I spend lots of time helping people realize that fighting is not only good for their relationship, it’s essential.
Healthy fights feed the fire in a relationship. The rupture caused by a disagreement or conflict can be used in a positive way, to intensify the connection. Here are the elements of a healthy fight:
• You realize you are upset about something
• You tell your spouse what you’re upset about, and why
• He listens. He disagrees, and tells you his perspective on it
• You argue back. You can’t believe he can think this way
• You agree to take a break and think about things
• You talk about it again. You’ve each thought about it and can see the other’s perspective (this doesn’t require that you agree)
• You each feel understood by the other
• Feeling understood helps you feel known, cared about, and closer
• Your feelings of passion and commitment and attraction are increased
No couple agrees on everything. Part of loving someone is being hurt by them (unfortunately). We are all vulnerable. So that means that it is vital to have the right tools to work through a problem. For a fight to have a healthy, positive effect, it must be done right. Here are the main skills needed to get you through any problem with your sweetheart.
Being able to:
1. Figure out what you feel and think (sounds easy but it’s not!)
2. Express those feelings and thoughts to your partner with sensitivity and compassion
3. Put your own feelings aside temporarily so that you can listen to what your partner has to say
4. Take a break, if necessary, to give yourself time to process, think, and get your defensiveness down
5. Take responsibility and admit your own weaknesses
6. Hold your partner responsible for his/her mistakes and weaknesses
7. Forgive your partner’s mistakes and weaknesses (if he/she deserves it)
Of these seven skills, one stands out as the most difficult by far: Number 3. This is where couples get stuck the most. It requires incredible maturity and strength to put your own intense feelings and beliefs aside so that you can take in opposing ideas and feelings from another. It requires you to manage your anger and hurt while also listening at the same time.
The good news is that couples can learn how to do this. In my experience, a couple who can do Skill #3 can also do the rest. And those who are capable of all seven skills are the most successful. Their passion continues, even after decades of marriage.
So don’t avoid conflict with your Love. Don’t hold in hurt. Don’t “protect” him by keeping your feelings to yourself. Don’t believe the fallacy that a fight is a threat to your relationship. Instead, say what you feel and what you need. Express it with compassion and care. Then listen.
Happy Valentine's Day!!