Every couple fights. It’s a given in relationships. We’re individuals with feelings and home is where we get real. You’ve been there! You had a bad day… or you’re tired… and the next thing you know, unkind words are coming out of your mouth. (She says, speaking from experience).
Especially challenging are issues like money, family, health, and parenting. And who among us is always at our best when things are challenging?
The point is, there will be fights even in the best relationships. But there’s a huge difference between the couples who fight just to fight and those who fight to make things better.
Here’s what the couples who fight for the betterment of their relationships do differently. These communication and healthy relationship habits are what make them successful.
1. They hear the other person out
Successful couples do more of what’s called Active Listening. They don’t cut the other person off. They take turns speaking, share how they feel, and use more “I” statements than the finger-pointing “you” statements. They’ll use phrases like “I see what you mean,” and “I didn’t realize that” to make the other person feel heard.
Successful couples take this empathetic approach to try to understand not just what is being said, but how the other person might be feeling. That’s how they learn that their partner is more worried about losing his/her job than they realized.
2. They don’t walk away
Couples who go the distance are the ones that don’t walk out during an argument. They understand how disrespectful it feels to walk out on someone who is feeling hurt, and don’t do that to their partners. They will stay up late to hash things out and will even take the morning off work to talk, rather than let things simmer all day.
If either of them wants to leave to clear their head or as a way to diffuse conflict, they will say something like, “I want to go and think about this” or they might say, “Let’s talk after I go for a run.”
3. They usually sit down to talk, not stand up and argue
They sit down (as adults will) when they realize it’s going to be a longer discussion. Research shows this lowers our tone and signals to the other person that you’re committed to listening and want to work things out.
Small gestures like these can tamp down, metaphorically and physiologically, all that furious heat.
4. They never go scorched earth
No matter how upset they are, successful couples don’t attack their partner. And they definitely don’t insult them by bringing up things they’re sensitive about. They refrain from negative name-calling and eye-rolling, and never go scorched earth tearing everything down to make their point. They are their most vulnerable when fighting, and don’t act defensive, fold their arms or turn away from the other person.
5. They tell the truth
Even at the risk of great hurt, they tell the truth when it’s important. Since most of us can detect lies anyway, why bother? When you’re honest, you’re protecting the trust in your relationship, not your own skin.
6. They don’t hold grudges
Successful couples are able to have those difficult conversations and when done, they leave them there. They will make a genuine effort to do what they agreed to do, so there’s no need for their partner to continually bring up the past or hold onto grudges.
7. They cut their partners some slack
Successful couples don’t create unnecessary conflicts or turn every situation they don’t like into an argument. By doing this, many fights never get started. Couples who accept that it’s sometimes okay to misbehave, act selfish, have mental lapses, and not always be the perfect partner, have great emotional intelligence. They pick their battles and don’t sweat the small stuff.
You can develop this relationship superpower by working on these two skills:
- Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Practice this by taking a beat before you react. Pull back from your peeved perspective for a minute to consider what else may be going on and whether this is a fight worth having.
- Be reasonable. While it’s okay to ask your partner to be understanding about your OCD, it’s not okay to expect him/her to accommodate unreasonable conditions. Being reasonable is one way we show respect for our partners.
Much like a business is in business to succeed, so are great relationships. To be a successful business or relationship, each party must be vested in the long-term health of the whole.
Fighting for the betterment of your relationship is one sure way for you and your partner to build something beautiful together.
Even if you two don’t go the distance, by practicing healthy relationship habits, you can end up as friends instead of enemies.
Christine is a Life Strategist and Emotional Health Coach living in Los Angeles. She's big on meditation and believes in systems and routines, and in personalizing everything you do to help you get where you want to be.