In our society’s romantic ideal of a couple, people live “happily ever after.” In reality, of course, they fight. Although fighting is an unpleasant part of any relationship, it doesn’t have to spell doom. Marriage counseling or couples therapy can help you and your partner turn conflict into an opportunity to deepen your connection.
There is no denying that fighting hurts. Even a small spat with your partner can leave you feeling tired and wounded. Frequent arguments and/or those that involve mean personal attacks are red flags that something may need to be addressed in your relationship. If you find you have hardly had time to recover from the last quarrel before another one is starting, it may be a good idea to seek counseling.
One of the first things I ask couples in conflict to do is step back from the idea that one person is right and the other is wrong. Think about it: Even if you “win” a fight at your partner’s expense – say, shaming them into an apology – does that make either one of you truly feel better? No, of course not, you both lose.
Instead, I encourage people to fight fairly. When a couple learns to keep emotions in check and communicate effectively, then both partners come out winners, because they triumph over the problem, rather than each other.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Everyone has experienced the rush of adrenaline triggered by intense confrontation, just as everyone has known the regret and sorrow that can follow a harsh verbal exchange.
One way to control this rush (instead of letting it control you) is to change your perspective. Tools such as breathing techniques and appropriate use of “time outs” can help you calm down, or self-sooth, and put you in a better frame of mind for effective communication.
Together, we can identify the tools that will work best for you, and practice using them in a safe, supportive environment. The goal is not to stop fighting, but to learn how to resolve problems so that healing may begin. You may even get to the point where you actually feel closer to your partner after a fight, because you have resolved it with mutual respect and kindness.
To get there takes work, but it’s worth it if you want to find your “happily ever after” –including the occasional fight.