How to Fight with Your Valentine Effectively

Categories: Couples, Marriage, and Relationships.

Valentines Day is a nice reminder to show your love and affection.  After the chocolates are all gone, though, you still have to work out your problems.  Conflict should not be avoided in love relationships.  In fact, healthy conflict will lead to greater intimacy than a box of chocolates will!   Following certain rules will keep you from engaging in harmful interactions that give conflict a bad name.  Below are some ground rules that I recommend using to keep your conflict in a healthy zone. Think of them as a box of chocolates.  Pick out the ones you would like to use.  They’re all good.

  • LISTEN!  Listen more to what the other person is saying that to what your fears and pain are telling you in that moment.  Think about “what does this person need from me?” when they are talking to you.  
  • Before you end your listening, ask them if you understood them correctly by repeating back what you heard and ask if that’s right.  Listen for feelings, wants and needs. 
  • Do not multi-task when the conversation is crucial (It’s crucial when emotions run high, the stakes are high, and the opinions vary).  Just be in the conflict and stop doing everything else. 
  • Eye contact!  Remember “If you don’t have his eyes, you don’t have his ears.”  
  • Do not use all/nothing statements such as “we always fight” or “you never….”    Avoid “all”, “never”, “always” in your discussions about the conflict issue. 
  • Keep it forward focused on the issue, not on patterns from the past.
  • Make a request for change instead of complaining or criticizing.  Stick to helping your partner understand your unmet need and your frustration.  Point the finger at yourself not the other person.  Consider the two examples below: 
      • “When you don’t greet me when I come home I feel ignored and I don’t like that.  Can you make an effort to greet me?”  – that’s a request for change. 
      • “You never greet me when I come home.  You obviously don’t love me like I love you.”  – That’s a criticism and its also character assassination.  
  • Tell each other how YOU feel, not how the other person feels. 
    • “I feel sad right now” is acceptable. 
    • “You don’t care” is unacceptable.  
  • Do not interrupt. 
  • Do not engage in character assassination – no labeling of the other person with negative attributes.  This is a senseless attack that only degrades the process. 
  • Stick to the issue at hand.  Don’t bring in other things until this one important issue is resolved. 
  • Do not give up or cut the conflict short before resolution is achieved just because you are emotionally in distress.  You can both agree to take a break of 20 minutes or less to gather your wits and center yourself, but then come back to the discussion. Give each other the opportunity to regulate emotions.  During time out, get back in touch with your goals and values for the relationship. Agree to shelve or put on hold the conflict when you have run out of time, and agree upon a time to pick the discussion back up. 
  • Try walking together while arguing.  
  • Don’t get caught up in only your negative emotions.  Stay in touch with your love for each other, and your respect for yourself.  
  • Put time limits on your argument.  Nothing good is going to come from arguing past midnight.  Decide to shelve it until you can revisit it again the next day.  
  • When your conflict is resolved, make sure you both can summarize what the argument was about and what your plan is to resolve the conflict.  Reiterate the importance of your relationship to each other, and how this difference is not as important as the relationship.  Basically, communicate that the problem is solvable for the sake of the relationship.   Always take the opportunity the express your fondness and admiration for your mate – never lose sight of these traits.  
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