When two people choose to journey together in a relationship, there is never a question of whether or not they will experience conflict. The question is whether they will know what’s at stake when conflict happens and how they can maintain a healthy relational connection.
Conflict isn’t always bad, as it helps us identify areas of differences and develop healthy boundaries etc. However, there are unhealthy conflicts (fights) which can leave couples feeling powerless, upset, and stuck.
Perspective is key in any communication, let alone one that is fuelled with emotions. The quicker we can step back and see the bigger picture, the quicker we can regain control of our emotions and navigate towards a win-win solution.
Learning how to fight fair
This should be the goal of couples. Fights happen, and when we react from the place of ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ we’ve lost the connection, even if we win the argument.
We want to build trust, connection and understanding with one another and seek to understand the other’s perspective to begin the process of reconnection.
Here are 5 effective ways to de-escalate a fight with your partner.
1. Listen With Empathy
Too often we are formulating our response while the other person is speaking and by default, we aren’t truly listening.
Active listening not only builds understanding between you, as you genuinely hear and process what is being said, but it helps you become more empathetic as you start to understand a different perspective.
2. Take a Breath
The age-old advice from every parent, coach, and teacher – is ‘Take a deep breath’. Get that oxygen into your lungs and fill your body.
A great method is box breathing. You inhale (4 seconds) Hold (4 seconds) Breathe Out (4 seconds) Hold (4 seconds), and the cycle begins again. It’s a technique used by many athletes, and U.S. Navy Seals and is a powerful stress reducer.
Which is ideal in conflict.
3. Have an Open Mind
How many times have you (and I) entered a conflict with our minds already made up?
Countless I imagine.
What would it look like if your thoughts were held in an open palm rather than a closed grip?
Having an open mind allows you both to get to a common understanding of the root issue and therefore being neutralizing the situation.
We cannot control others, but we can control ourselves by being vulnerable and open-minded.
4. Call ‘Code-Red’
There may be times (late at night, hungry, tired etc) when it just is not productive in any way shape or form to have a fight. In those instances, it’s great to have a ‘code word’ something either one of you can use to just put an immediate halt to the spectacle.
It doesn’t mean you gloss over the issue and bury it, but it does mean you inject time into the equation and agree to pause until a more optimal time for communication.
5. Eye Contact, Proximity, Physical Touch
Hear me out. I know some fights are seemingly way beyond this point. But if you can, then sit close, ideally with some physical touch. It makes it incredibly hard to escalate a fight when you are looking into the eyes of each other and holding hands.
There is just something that causes you to care. Your body might fight it, but your heart knows that the connection is good and healthy.
This has been a game-changer for Maha and me. Not easy but so helpful in maintaining a connection.
Building a healthy relationship
Healthy relationships and communication don’t automatically happen we often replicate learned behavior both positive and negative.
To master ourselves, our relationships and our communication take intentionality, humility and time.
Not all the tips and tools listed above will instantly de-escalate a fight and have you both in immediate harmony, however taking control and ownership of yourself is step one.
There are times when seeking outside guidance is important, whether that be a trained counsellor/therapist, a trusted pastor/leader, trusted friends (who have a healthy relationship) etc.
We all have blind spots and sharp edges that need smoothing so that we can become the best versions of ourselves, not just for us but for our family, friends and the world around us.
We replicate who we are and we cannot give what we do not possess. So if we want the fruit of our relationships to be healthy then we must take the steps to reflect on where we’ve been, where we currently are and where we want to be (as a person) in order to make the necessary changes.