Are you a couple who just can’t stop fighting? Fighting with someone you love can be one of the most heartbreaking situations.
You want to stop fighting with your partner, but you can’t seem to figure out how. Instead of breaking up or separating to cool off, here’s how to stop the bickering and get back to loving on one another.
Conflict can be healthy in relationships — if done right.
Disagreeing, fighting, bickering, or whatever your label of choice is not only common in intimate relationships, but when done properly, can lead to a deeper connection between the two of you.
But in order for that to happen, you both have to have the same goal in mind.
Conflict is a natural occurrence in all relationships, and when you understand the common stages all relationships go through, you’ll have a clearer vision on where you and your partner are, how to reconnect, and bring the romance back.
Understanding the stages of relationships.
When you first come together, there is attraction, the discovery of common interests, the excitement of sex, and all the other good stuff that two people can share together. This is the “romance stage” of relationship, and it is a chemical high.
Both of your brains are being flooded with “feel good” chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine that stimulate the pleasure centers of your brain and create a feeling of excitement.
In this stage, the two of you are mainlining love like an addict mainlines drugs.
The romance stage is so important because it bonds the two of you and ultimately puts fuel in the tank of the relationship, so you can continue further down the path toward lasting love.
The “power struggle” stage of a relationship is when conflict arises.
Unfortunately, these chemicals wear off over time, and when they do, there is a natural hangover. This is the beginning of the “power struggle stage” of relationship.
At the beginning, there is the excitement of discovering someone new. “Wow, this person is different from me. This is exciting!”
When the chemicals wear off and the power struggle kicks in, you discover yourself thinking, “Wow, this person is different from me. If only they would do things my way, we’d get along better!”
In order to stop fighting with your partner, you have to be able to get past the power struggle stage and into the “stability” stage.
This transition is one of the most powerful steps you can take as a couple and create a bond that lasts a lifetime.
Here are 7 steps to stop fighting with your partner and grow stronger as a couple.
1. Learn how to stop a fight from escalating.
If you’re stuck in a quarrel cycle and really want to stop fighting with your partner, you first have to learn how to calm yourself down and prevent an argument from escalating or falling into a cold war.
Realize that when you are in an argument, you’re triggered and your mind has gone into survival mode. Your powerful pre-frontal cortex has gone offline, and your “fight, flight, or freeze” system has taken over.
All of your strategies while triggered are designed to keep you safe. But they are detrimental to creating connection with your partner.
First, recognize that you need to take a break. You may need to create a signal or phrase with your partner to request a break from the argument.
This break should have a time frame. Leaving it open-ended can create an extended cold war from the argument where the two of you are not openly fighting, but are withholding love and affection from each other.
During this break, you’ll want to actively work to calm your nervous system. Instead of using the time to refine your arguments about why you are right and your partner is wrong, take the time to reconnect with yourself and calm down.
One effective technique is to place one or both hands on your heart as you inhale and exhale to a count of five. Continue doing this until you feel your heart rate slow and your body calm down.
2. Find neutral ground to meet your partner.
When you’ve calmed your nervous system, you’ll want to have an agreed-upon spot where you reconnect with your partner. Over time, this spot will develop positive associations and a subconscious understanding that you’ve come together to reconnect and repair.
If you’re home, a great place to start the reconnection process is on a couch. You can sit facing away from each other or facing toward each other, and when you’re ready to reconnect, your partner is next to you.
In order to stop fighting with your partner, create rules about how you communicate when you come to the agreed-upon space. Agree to allow each other to speak without interrupting.
Take your time if you feel yourself getting triggered again, and remember to breathe. This is the time for the two of you to begin the process of de-escalating the argument and to start reconnecting.
3. Take responsibility for your part.
When you stop blaming your partner for a wound that existed long before they came along, you’re able to step into responsibility. From the seat of responsibility, you can find your way through to deeply connect with one another.
What bothers you about your partner is something that’s already inside of you.
This is the “funhouse-mirror effect.” You don’t recognize that your partner is really a reflection of yourself and your wounds. The image is distorted, just like inside a funhouse.
To stop fighting with your partner, own your wounds and stop blaming your partner for being triggered.
4. Have compassion for your partner’s wounds and your own.
Want to transform your relationship and stop fighting with your partner? Realize that you and your partner aren’t actually arguing about each other. Instead, you’re working to heal childhood wounds.
Seeing the little boy in him and the little girl in you brings a completely new perspective about what’s really going on in the subtext of your arguments.
If you were able to go back in time and see your partner as a little boy, you would find an infinite amount of compassion for everything he went through.
When your partner is triggered, imagine him as that little boy who’s hurt or scared. He’s using the best strategy he has for coping with the current situation.
When you see him this way, it becomes easy to see his behavior for what it is — an old pattern — and from this perspective, you won’t take his behavior personally.
The same idea is true for you when you’re triggered. Seeing yourself as the little girl doing the best she can with limited resources opens you up to compassion for yourself, which then will allow you to reconnect with your partner.
5. Use “I” language, not “you” language.
One of the easiest ways to trigger a defensive response from someone is to say, “You make me so angry!”
The truth is, you’re the one in control of your emotional life. No one can make you feel anything. It’s not like he’s holding a gun to your head and saying, “Feel angry!”
Your emotional responses are yours. Own them, especially when you’re sharing them with your partner.
Saying, “I feel angry when ________,” allows you to take responsibility for your own emotions and for the history of your wounds. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter who the other person is; this is your habitual response when you feel that someone is attempting to control you.
Communicating in this way allows your partner to hear you, rather than hearing your feelings as an attack. Stop fighting with your partner by owning your emotional responses and taking responsibility for your reactions.
6. Clean up your emotional messes.
One of the least-useful sayings about conflict in relationships is the phrase, “Pick your battles.”
First off, you’re not in a war with your partner, so any disagreement is not a battle to be fought or a war to be won.
When you hold onto something because you think it’s not a big deal and you don’t want to seem like a difficult person, your emotions can build up inside until you cannot contain them anymore.
Holding onto little things and letting them build up over time sets the stage for you to erupt. It doesn’t feel good to either of you.
Develop a practice of keeping the sink clean in your relationship. Don’t let the dirty dishes of your little hurts or frustrations build up into something unmanageable.
You don’t want to leave landmines throughout your relationship that can cause the whole foundation to blow up. Instead, make the effort to clean as you go. This allows you to remain connected to each other and to avoid blowups out of proportion to the current mishap.
7. Start fighting for your relationship.
The power struggle is like a tug-of-war between the two of you. When one of you is “right,” that means the other one is “wrong.”
No one wants to be wrong — you expend a lot of energy fighting off being wrong in every part of your life. Stop fighting with your partner by refusing to make each other right or wrong.
Instead of the ego struggle of who’s right or wrong, develop an “us against the world” mentality. This means that you fight for the relationship, not for your way or their way.
Contrary to popular belief, compromise breeds resentment, and ultimately kills passion in a relationship. No one wants to give up things they want or need in order to meet in the middle. It creates a lose-lose situation.
Instead, look for the win-win in order to resolve conflict. This will require more effort and creativity, but it’s worth it in the long run!