Every couple fights. That's just a fact of life. But while you might think fighting too much is a sign of your relationship going sour, research says it's actually a good thing.
"Fighting means you care about the relationship," Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist and professor at California State University, confirmed to Glamour last year. "When fighting goes away completely, sometimes one or both people have checked out."
But even though fighting is good, how you fight can also affect the health of your relationship.
"When two people disagree, they usually make accusations and start calling names," Dr. Kimberly Moffit, a Canadian relationship expert and Head & Shoulders ambassador, told HuffPost Canada in an email. "This doesn't solve a problem and partners end up hurting one another in the process."
To avoid this issue, Moffit says it's important to fight fair because the consequences of not doing so can lead to escalated arguments or unnecessary nitpicking.
"This can hurt your partner's feelings and undermine their confidence and self-esteem, which is a foundation of any healthy relationship," she said.
Fighting fair isn't always easy though, and means both partners need to be conscious of their actions and words. But according to Moffit, there are three surefire ways to keep yourself in check during an argument.
1. Always state the facts first
When someone does something to upset you — regardless of whether or not it's your partner — the natural instinct is to react with anger. However, it's important not to let your emotions get the best of you! Take a deep breath, and calmly state what the problem is.
One example Moffit used is: "You left the toothpaste cap off last night again."
Stating the facts "allows you to get to the bottom of the problem right away, without dwelling on past issues," she explained.
2. Explain how your partner's action made you feel
It's natural for people to get defensive when their partner says something negative about them. For example, "You forgot to pick up the dry cleaning" or "Your side of the bedroom is a mess." That's why explaining how your partner's action made you feel can create understanding between the two of you and help avoid a spiraling argument.
"When I see the toothpaste cap off, it makes me very frustrated" or "I feel like we had this conversation a few times, but I am not being heard" is a great example of explaining how you feel, Moffit said.
"By doing this, you are not saying anything negative about the other person, but just describing what their action meant to you."
3. Offer an alternate action that would make the situation better next time
Following the toothpaste analogy, Moffit offered this example: "Maybe we should purchase a toothpaste dispenser?"
"This way you are demonstrating your partner that you are willing to work with them and helping him/her to come up with a solution to accommodate you," she explained.
At the end of the day, fighting fair really comes down to keeping your emotions in check and approaching arguments from a calm and civil manner.
If you want your relationship to last, it's important to be on your best behaviour and avoid unnecessary fights
"If you want your relationship to last, it's important to be on your best behaviour and avoid unnecessary fights," Moffit said. "But when you do fight — fight fair! We always try so hard at the beginning of our relationship, but as we get comfortable, we stop paying attention to things that really matter to those we love most."
Moffit added that using this three-step approach to arguments can help keep your relationship healthy.
"It helps partners work through the issue very quickly and avoid the snowball effect," she said. "[And] it enhances trust and gives both partners a greater feeling of safety in their relationship."
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