Conflict is a natural part of every relationship. As much as you love each other, you sometimes find yourself at odds over how to raise your children, pay off your mortgage, or do the laundry. Try these tips for resolving and preventing arguments so you can weather the rocky times and enjoy more harmony.
Steps to Take After an Argument
1. Cool off. If tempers are flaring, you may be better off stepping away until you calm down. Take a walk or clean out a closet. Let your partner know that you’re willing to talk later when you’re less likely to say something that you’ll regret.
2. Look at the big picture. Remind yourself about your partner’s good qualities. List the positive aspects of your relationship. It will help you to keep things in perspective.
3. Apologize when appropriate. Hold yourself accountable for your contribution to the conflict. Ask for forgiveness when you’ve made a mistake.
4. Respect each other’s feelings. You and your partner will be happier if you consider how your actions affect each other. Be willing to spend Valentine’s Day at an overcrowded restaurant if it makes your partner feel special.
5. Reach out. A little reassurance can keep tensions from interfering with intimacy. Offer a hug or a friendly smile.
6. Follow up. Some differences require more than one conversation. Congratulate yourselves for agreeing to cut back on spending on cable TV and new shoes. Agree to weekly sessions for tackling the rest of your household budget.
Steps to Take Before an Argument Begins
1. Communicate openly. Being direct and transparent will help prevent misunderstandings from piling up. Share your inner thoughts and emotions. Ask your partner what they’re thinking instead of making assumptions.
2. Work together as a team. Pull your weight around the house. Divide responsibilities fairly. Take turns leading major projects, such as supervising home renovations or planning family vacations. This is even more important if they’re becoming a burden for one person.
3. Spend time apart. Give each other some space. Your relationship will be more stable if you build a support network rather than counting on your partner for everything.
4. Establish priorities. Distinguish between deal breakers and minor irritations. There’s a big difference between losing an entire paycheck at the racetrack and buying a few too many boxes of Girl Scout cookies.
5. Acknowledge your weaknesses. It’s easier to accept imperfections in your loved ones when you realize that you can be difficult to live with too. Maybe you snore or have trouble remembering anniversaries.
6. Laugh together. Humor is good for relationships. You’ll enjoy each other’s company and feel more connected. That closeness can help prepare you for dealing with serious challenges.
7. Socialize with other couples. Role models come in handy for relationship skills that you may have missed growing up. Spend time with your next door neighbors if they seem to have a strong marriage. Observe how they interact.
8. Seek expert help. Self-help materials and therapists can provide valuable advice. Encourage your partner to join you. Let them know that you want to build a more meaningful life for both of you.
9. Assess your relationship. In some cases, you may discover that it’s time to move on. That can be true if a relationship is undermining your self-esteem or you have different goals. If you need to go your separate ways, an amicable break up will minimize resentments and speed up healing.
Loving relationships require work. Remember how much you care about your partner and let them know it, especially when you disagree with each other.