Do you ever feel like fighting is inevitable these days?
It is a typical Wednesday night: Your laundry isn't folded, your child spilled spaghetti sauce on your white carpet, the TV is turned on way too loud (again) and your spouse is doing the one thing that ticks you off to no end. It all feels overwhelming.
With all of these antics culminating together, it is easy to fall into a fighting spell with your spouse as an outlet of anger. Arguing may seem routine, degrading and unavoidable these days, but in a recent New York Times article, researchers found new techniques to help partners fight in ways that will grow and strengthen their relationships.
Below are eight tips and tactics suggested by researchers to help turn your fights from lose-lose situations to win-wins.
1. Start on a level playing field
In war, one side constantly seeks to obtain higher ground to stand and look down on their opponents. It is a mental tactic that degrades and demoralizes the opposing team.
When you are fighting with the one you love, avoid the looming and tempting opportunity to stand and look down on your spouse. Sit at the counter together or sit on the couch. Keep your eyes and bodies on the same level to create an environment that promotes equality.
2. Choose a cozy environment
Setting the scene is important for any situation. The proper mood and environment facilitate specific conversations and their outcomes. Researchers found when individuals are comfy and at ease they are more likely to speak and communicate what they are truly feeling.
Grab your spouse and take the conversation to the couch. See what difference a comfy seat (instead of your rigid kitchen bar stools) has on your spats.
3. Watch out for transitions
Researchers also found the most common times couples fight during a typical day are when they say hello and when they say goodbye. Transitions are vulnerable periods when it's much easier to release built-up emotions and rage.
These transitions include getting ready for the day in the morning, sending the kids off to school, coming home from work and going to bed. Be aware of these volatile times and avoid fighting during them as much as possible.
In passionate arguments, an individual often relays their most pivotal and dynamic point of their argument within the first minute of the conversation. Beyond the initial statement, the argument often begins to repeat or re-emphasize points previously made.
To avoid the sensationalism and escalation of one particular point in your argument, time your statements and allow each partner a specific amount of time to make their case. Eliminate rambling and promote effective communication.
5. Don't premeditate rebuttals - listen
Do not use the time your spouse is taking to make their argument as a time to plan and articulate your rebuttal. Psychologist Larry Waldman suggests couples practice the technique of paraphrasing when fighting.
To implement this technique, listen to your partner's complaint. Once they are done making their point, paraphrase their statement before you transition into your response. Shining a light on what they said, allows them to see you recognize their points and are taking what they have to say seriously.
Everyone wants a little validation. The next time you find yourself in a fight, try to find a way to give credit and value to your partner's point of view.
For example, if your spouse argues, "Why can't you be more tidy?" first address the situation by using "I feel" phrases. Then, ask your spouse what solution they see as the most effective.
You can say something along the lines of, "I can see why my untidiness could upset you. What specifically do you see me doing to help resolve this issue?" This type of response provides validation and credibility to your partner's point of view. It also shows your willingness to find a resolute compromise. Validation promotes teamwork in problem solving.
7. Do not multitask
If you are going to fight, only fight. Do not fold laundry, unload the dishwasher, create a grocery list or do your hair. Find the time to sit down, just the two of you, to talk about your conflict.
With zero distractions, the two of you will create an open and effective environment to work at finding solutions.
8. Have a physical point of contact
Find a way to physically connect with your spouse while fighting. I don't mean to fistfight or throw things at the wall.
If the heat of the argument is not throwing you off the edge, grab your partner's hand or lightly tap their toes to let them know you are connected and still on their side, regardless of your different points of view.