Relationships are tough. Life is messy. Sometimes, the best way to manage conflict is to bite your tongue.
In most relationships, disagreements will happen. Usually, the problem arises because of the way couples disagree, which often leads to a fight or severe conflict. If you enter a fight with the intentions of vengeance, control, or to prove you’re right, the disagreement has turned into a competition with a winner and a loser. This means in order for you to win your spouse or partner has to lose—that’s no win. It’s important to form a partnership in a relationship where you and your Honey work together to manage conflict, even if you disagree.
Emotions often have the potential to dominate a disagreement, and a small disagreement can easily turn into a big argument. As a couple’s therapist, I strongly believe that “fighting fair” has to be an intentional commitment in the relationship. There are many types of arguments between couples; Below are the most common and ways to help you deal with them.
The Money Fight
Money is generally a representation of values, priorities, security, freedom, and lifestyle. If you differ without any willingness to compromise, many arguments can and will occur.
Tip for the Money Fight: Have a clear and open discussion about money and be willing to negotiate your expectations to avoid letting the differences negatively affect the relationship.
The Division of Labor Fight
When one person feels like they are contributing more, the relationship feels unequal, resentments start to build, and it can begin to hinder the relationship.
Tip for the Division of Labor Fight: Have a solid path of communication to allow you to work together instead of apart. Get a couple’s therapist involved, if necessary.
The Power in the Relationship Fight
When a partner feels dominated and lacks a participating voice, typically they will fight to be heard by speaking louder. This, ultimately, results in verbal arguments and a progressive deterioration in the relationship.
Tip for the Power in the Relationship Fight: Ensure you and your partner are voicing your concerns and needs by being open to hearing the other. When your partner has a need, you have a job and vice versa.
The Sex, Touch, and Affection Fight
As time goes by and things change, sexual needs and desires change as well. Sometimes couples will not discuss their sex life and intimacy needs because they are shy, embarrassed, or think their partner should just already know—an impossible task, as expectations of libido fluctuate.
Tip for Disagreements about Sex, Touch, and Affection: The key is to get real and have a continuous open discussion about your sex life. The talk will not only benefit your sex life but other areas of communication as well.
The Extended Family Fight
This could be a meddling in-law, the process of blending a family, or even relationships you have with best friends. This usually happens when extended family matters are disrupting the expectation a partner has concerning time, money, discipline, etc.
Tip for the Extended Family Fight: To prevent these conflicts, have a discussion with your partner on what they expect from the extended family and keep the conversation open.
The Parenting Styles Fight
Our past often shapes the way we parent. This can mean you or your partner have significantly different parenting styles resulting in conflict. Your partner could be a strict disciplinarian while you are more laid back. Parenting styles are: Permissive, Authoritarian, Authoritative and Uninvolved. The most effective style of parenting is Authoritative, which is a healthy balance between being a disciplinarian and a communicative parent.
Tip for the Parenting Styles Fight: There are a number of parenting styles, so one of the crucial first things you should do is find some common ground—things you agree on—and go from there. Once there is an understanding of the other, the problem can begin to resolve using compromise and negotiations.
Tips to Productive Arguing
Arguments should be temporary, don’t let the ugliness stretch out and taint your view of the relationship. Here are some additional tips to manage conflict keep the arguments productive.
1. Keep it Relevant: Don’t bring up old grudges or sore points when they don’t belong in a particular argument. Set boundaries around the arguments so they do not become a free for all.
2. Avoid Character Assassination: Stay focused on the issues and argue with the intent of enlightening your partner instead of tearing them down. This type of communication will not make your argument or your relationship any stronger.
3. Rate the Argument: Use a 1-10 scale to judge your feelings about an argument. If your feeling is a 3 and your partner’s feeling about the subject is 7, then there is something you can probably let go of to support your partner. If the opposite happens and your feeling is a 10 and his/her feelings are at a 4, then they should be willing to compromise. Very rarely in an argument are both people at a 10.
And remember, sometimes it’s easier to bite your tongue and let it go for the sake of the relationship.