Here’s something that I’ve learned with time: the key to being in a happy, healthy relationship is learning how to navigate life in all of its glorious shittiness as a team. One key player in the shitty factory? Everyday fights. You know the ones — they pop up unannounced, like a chin zit, and threaten to ruin your whole day.
In the middle of a fight, I’m known to lose my cool (a tried-and-true gemini). Everything all of a sudden becomes TERRIBLE and our relationship is DOOMED and it escalates things quickly. It also is erosive, and unproductive. So, I’ve been trying a new technique: when a fight or argument emerges, I take a few deep breaths, and then I try to really listen, not as hot-headed Joy would, but as a neutral mediator (like a pensive therapist) would. Even if I wholeheartedly disagree, I basically bite my tongue. Usually, taking this stance curbs the tension and the momentum of the fight is knocked on its feet.
In a recent study done on couple fighting, researchers found that “couples who could see where their partner was coming from were not only able to bounce back better after fights, but they were also able to view the fight as a “healthy.” And here’s something interesting: “A person doesn’t have to truly understand their partner’s position in the disagreement; they simply had to express that they empathized with their position.”
“The researchers point out that feeling understood was not just a symptom of being a pushover, having a glow-y image of their partner, or being in a solid place relationship-wise. Empathy was the strongest buffer against people feeling like their relationship was unfulfilling because it indicated that not only were couples able to transcend the fight, but they could do it together — and their partner was invested in their collective future.”
Another helpful tip I’ve learned is to agree to walk away in the middle of a fight — one person goes for a walk and the other takes a bath — and although this one is SO HARD to do, especially in the heat of the moment when you’re dying to resolve the issue, once you reconvene, you’re much more likely to get to the bottom of things more pleasantly and with less blood drawn :).
What are your tips for everyday arguments and fights? I would love to know.
Top drawing by Jean Jullien.