Fight Right – Esther Boykin

fight right imageWhat’s the secret to a lasting love affair? Great communication of course! So often couples struggle with how to really talk with each other and one of the toughest parts of communication is dealing with conflict.

Most of us hope to avoid these emotionally  charged  situations  or even convince ourselves that “happy couples” don’t fight; but the truth is that couples don’t stay happily in love by avoiding conflict or magically agreeing on everything; happy couples just learn how to fight right. Typically when couples fight, what may look like bad behavior is usually the result of our innate desire to protect ourselves from getting hurt; the problem is that those behaviors are usually the things that hurt our relationship the most.

But there’s hope. When we learn to quiet that internal voice that starts questioning whether this is the right relationship, we can stop reacting defensively and start repairing the issue with love and respect. Although not easy to do in the middle of a fight, with practice, you can learn to start fighting right and loving better.

1. Take a deep breath.

It may sound cliché but simply breathing can help you to quickly calm down and step back from your instinctual defensive responses. This is the first step to understanding what the conflict is really about.

2. Listen.

Typically in an argument, while our partner is talking we are busy crafting a response rather than truly listening to their position. Listen carefully with an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, what might sound like criticism or accusations may really be a request for help or compassion.

3. Empathize.

Once you have clarified your partner’s position, take a minute to empathize with their perspective. Empathizing means truly stepping into their shoes and understanding how and why they feel what they do. You don’t have to agree (you probably won’t) but you do have to find a way to accept that their feelings have equal validity to yours.

4. Remember your real goal.

Sometimes you give up the battle to win with war- decide if having your way is going to make the relationship better for both of you. If not, let it go and remind yourself that the real victory is a loving partnership.

Esther Boykin, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist, relationship expert, and co-founder of Group Therapy Associates in Haymarket, VA.

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