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5 Ways to Fight in a Relationship that Actually Make You Grow Closer
Learn 5 conflict management skills that actually turn couple fights into a bridge to deeper connection between you and your spouse.
Your spouse is probably the person you feel most connected to. They know how much you love truffle fries, how scared you are of flying beetles, or how you hate public speaking. They know your deepest hopes, and your lifelong dreams. They see you, deep down, and really know you for who you are.
That’s why it’s so hard when conflict arises. You think, “How can you say that about me? Don’t you know me at all?”
One of the most hurtful things about fighting in relationships is feeling misunderstood by the person you trust the most. Thankfully, as researchers from The Gottman Institute have found, conflict can also be an opportunity to understand each other better, and can lead to personal and mutual growth.
As the psychologists and relationship coaches at The Gottman Institute have found, there are a series of skills you can learn to manage marriage conflict better, and use disagreements as bridges to deeper connection. Try some of these strategies the next time you argue with your spouse.AforArcade Founders Min and Collin’s Beautiful Wedding at Grand Hyatt Singapore by AndroidsinBoots
1. Word your issue as neutrally as possible
In the heat of the argument, it’s easier to blame your partner and criticise them for the faults you perceive, but all that does is make your partner defensive and shout back.
Instead of a “You” statement, which points the finger at your partner, use an “I” statement to express your feelings, perception, and thoughts about the issue. When you shout, “You haven’t done anything to help plan our wedding!” your partner’s instinctive response is defensiveness and anger.
Help your partner hear what you’re saying by using an “I” statement such as, “I wish you would show more interest in the wedding planning,” which is a softer approach. Using an “I” statement frames the issue in a more neutral manner, without casting blame on your partner, which makes them more receptive to your complaint.Grace and Dominic’s Pre-Wedding Shoot in Melbourne with Magical Light by Bloc Memoire Photography
2. Seek to understand and empathise
When you argue, you’re fired by the need to be validated, to have your partner admit that you’re right. You view the problem as their fault. According to Kyle Benson, relationship coach, the key to turning things around is “accepting that every situation can yield two different yet valid perspectives that deserve equal weight.”
Once you accept that your partner has an equally valid perspective of the problem, you can shift from viewing them as the problem, to trying to see things from their perspective. If you can view the issue from your partner’s point of view, you can understand where they’re coming from and why they feel the way they do. You don’t need to agree with them; you just need to understand their perspective. When you both understand each other’s position, it becomes much easier to find a solution.
In an argument, you can unconsciously feel that you’re right and that your partner can’t see things the right way because there’s something wrong with them. It might be instinctive to think “I’m normal; they’re flawed.” This hinders your ability to see things from their point of view. If you recognise this in yourself, shift your perspective to accept that their view is just as valid as yours.Florence and Ting Kong’s Incredible, Beautiful Taobao Wedding and Engagment Session by Pratya
3. Tell your partner what you need from them
“You’re so lazy!” “You’re always neglecting me!” It’s easy to criticise your partner during an argument, but a negative statement usually incites a negative response. Feeling criticised prompts people to defend themselves from an attack.
The negative emotions that you feel towards your partner can often be a sign of what you actually desire. If you examine your emotions closely, you may find hidden desires, such as a feeling of loneliness underneath your anger. Discovering your real feelings will allow you to express your needs to your partner in a more positive way. Telling your partner how you feel will help them to see things from your perspective as well.
Instead of criticising them, you could say, “I feel hurt when you don’t express interest in our wedding. It makes me feel like you don’t want to celebrate our union, and that our marriage is not important to you,” or “I wish you would spend more time with me. I miss you.” Framing your complaint as a need instead of an attack helps your partner be more receptive, and helps them to understand you better.Jillian and Jason’s Soulful Wedding Photography in Norway in the Dramatic Lofoten Islands by Vegard Giskenhaug
4. Listen without defensiveness
It’s not easy to listen without becoming defensive, when you feel like someone is accusing you or misunderstanding you. Often, people stop listening and jump in to defend themselves, and the conflict only escalates.
Getting defensive may be instinctive, but it’s counter-productive to understanding your partner’s point of view. When you keep rebutting, “No, that’s not what I meant,” you’re stopping yourself from seeing what your partner meant. Instead, take a breath and tell yourself that you love your partner and you want to understand why they feel hurt. Without the defensive barriers you throw up, you are more able to hear what they’re really saying, and understand why they’re upset.Diana and Sufiyan’s Gorgeous Engagement Session and Blush and Green Wedding by Colossal Weddings
5. Understand and empathise before problem-solving
It might seem that solving the problem equals solving the conflict, but simply finding a quick solution or compromise doesn’t address the emotions involved. Hurt feelings that are ignored or pushed down can crop again later, or fester into resentment.
It’s more important to deepen your connection with your partner by really understanding and empathising with them. As human beings, we all need to feel understood. When you’re in love, you feel connected to your partner. You feel that they really “get” you.
Conflict breaks this connection because you feel misunderstood. The misunderstanding creates a distance between you, and empathy is what brings you both to the same side. Empathy validates your partner’s emotions, and builds trust and connection. When you are willing to feel what your partner felt, you stop defending your position and instead become a team against the conflict.
Conflict in marriage can be difficult and hurtful, but it can also become a bridge to deeper connection. When you use conflict management skills to understand and attune to each other, you will feel more intimately connected, and happier in your marriage.
Credits: Feature image from Steph and Weilun’s Travel-Themed Capella Singapore Wedding by Bobby Kiran Photography
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