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Chronic fighting can take a toll on both your emotional well-being and the health of your relationship. It can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and even physical health problems. 1
In this article, we’ll delve into practical strategies to help you break free from the cycle of constant fighting. If you need more help in navigating the difficult terrain of disagreements and arguments, check out our guide on how to navigate conflicts in relationships!
1. Understand the Root Cause of the Conflict
The first step in stopping the cycle of fighting in a relationship is to understand the root cause. Ask yourself why you are feeling angry or upset and try to identify what caused the conflict in the first place. Once you have identified the source of your argument, it will be much easier to resolve it.
In 2021, the “Journal of Family Issues” published a paper by Dixie Meyer and Renata Sledge, which investigated common topics of conflict in romantic relationships. In the study, involving a significant number of participants (1,013), couples were surveyed about the topics that frequently lead to conflicts, as well as their levels of relationship satisfaction and conflict behaviors.
Here are some of the most common topics which can lead to conflicts in relationships, according to the study: 2
Communication was the most commonly reported conflict topic in the study. Effective communication is vital for maintaining a healthy relationship. Differences in communication styles, misunderstandings, and difficulty expressing feelings or needs can all contribute to conflicts between partners.
Differences in personal habits can spark recurring conflicts in relationships. For example, differences in spending patterns, where one partner may be more inclined to save while the other is prone to impulse buying, can lead to financial disagreements and strain the relationship.
Spending time together
Balancing individual needs for personal space and quality time as a couple can be challenging. Discrepancies in preferences for activities, time allocation, or levels of independence can lead to disagreements.
Expectations about roles
Conflicts can arise when partners have different expectations about their roles within a relationship. One common area of conflict is household chores and responsibilities. Disagreements may occur when partners have different views on who should be responsible for cooking, cleaning, or maintaining the home.
2. Develop effective communication skills
Ultimately, the key to resolving conflicts in a relationship is effective communication. The way couples communicate with each other during disagreements and conflicts has a significant impact on their overall relationship satisfaction and stability. 3
Studies have consistently shown that couples who use active and constructive communication styles tend to experience greater well-being in their relationships. 4 5 6 Constructive communication involves engaging in problem-solving, mutual negotiation, and cooperation to address conflicts and find resolutions together. 6
Express your feelings and needs without blaming or criticizing
One essential communication skill is expressing your feelings and needs without resorting to blaming or criticizing your partner. One effective way to do this is to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements.
By using “I-language,” you can effectively convey your thoughts and emotions without escalating arguments or causing miscommunications in a relationship. Research has shown that using “I-language” is associated with better problem-solving abilities and higher levels of marital satisfaction. 7
“I-language” involves expressing yourself from your own perspective, using phrases like “I feel” or “I need.” This approach allows you to take ownership of your feelings and experiences rather than placing blame on your partner. It promotes personal responsibility and encourages open and non-confrontational communication.
Avoid negative communication patterns
Negative communication, characterized by hostility, criticism, and demanding communication styles, can have detrimental effects on a romantic relationship, ultimately lowering overall satisfaction. Negative communication behaviors may include putting your partner down, blaming them for problems, and expressing negative emotions towards them. 8 9
On the other hand, positive communication involves reasoning with your partner, working together to solve problems, expressing positive emotions, and providing support to each other. 9 These behaviors promote understanding, cooperation, and empathy, fostering an environment conducive to resolving conflicts effectively. By consciously avoiding negative communication patterns, you create space for healthier interaction and conflict resolution.
4. Apologize sincerely
A sincere apology is crucial in the process of repairing a relationship and fostering forgiveness. 10 When you apologize sincerely, you are acknowledging the impact of your actions on your partner. It shows that you take responsibility for any hurt caused and that you genuinely care about their feelings.
By apologizing sincerely, you can actively contribute to resolving conflicts, healing relationship wounds, and strengthening the bond with your partner.
5. Give each other time and space
Recognizing when and how to step back from a heated argument can regulate your relationship and prevent the negative effects from seeping into other aspects of your bond. 11 By giving each other the gift of time and space, you create an opportunity for self-reflection, introspection, and a chance to gain a fresh outlook on the situation.
By gracefully disengaging from conflict in a healthy manner, you not only protect your partner and your relationship but also safeguard yourself from unnecessary stress and harm. It allows for a much-needed cooling-off period where emotions can settle, rationality can be regained, and fresh perspectives can be gained. 11
Moreover, offering time and space demonstrates a deep level of respect and empathy towards your partner. It shows that you value their emotional well-being and recognize the importance of allowing them to process their emotions independently.
6. Set healthy boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries plays a pivotal role in breaking the cycle of fighting in a relationship. One significant reason why setting healthy boundaries matters is that it clarifies expectations and limits within the relationship. By clearly defining what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, partners can navigate conflicts more effectively. Boundaries help both individuals understand each other’s boundaries, reducing the likelihood of engaging in harmful or hurtful behaviors that often lead to fights.
Moreover, healthy boundaries promote mutual respect between partners. They create a framework that provides individuals with a space to explore their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and beliefs without fear of judgment or criticism. 12 When boundaries are respected, it fosters a sense of safety and emotional well-being, preventing conflicts from escalating into intense fights.
In addition to fostering respect, setting healthy boundaries enhances communication and understanding within the relationship. By openly discussing and establishing boundaries, couples create a space for open dialogue. This promotes effective communication, allowing partners to express their needs, concerns, and frustrations in a constructive manner.Learn how to set healthy boundaries in your relationship!
7. Use Humor
Humor can be an effective tool for diffusing tension and can even make relationships stronger when used appropriately. 13 A well-timed joke or a playful comment can provide a much-needed break from the tension, allowing both of you to take a step back and gain perspective on the situation. Using humor in arguments and conflicts serves as a gentle reminder that the issue at hand is not insurmountable.
However, it is crucial to use humor appropriately and with respect. It should never be used as a means to belittle or dismiss the other person’s feelings or concerns. Using humor in an inappropriate manner can escalate the conflict and cause further harm to the relationship. Understanding each other’s sense of humor and being sensitive to each other’s emotions is key to effectively using humor in conflicts.
By using humor in a respectful and appropriate manner, couples can create an environment where laughter fosters understanding, empathy, and a stronger connection. It reminds them that even during disagreements, there is room for joy and growth in their relationship.
Remember, no relationship is perfect, and it’s natural to face challenges along the way. Most challenges can be managed and resolved with healthy communication, empathy, understanding, and respect. Check out our ultimate communication guide for couples to get more tips on how to communicate effectively in a relationship!
Secrets to a healthy relationship: Books every couple should read
It's no secret that a healthy relationship is key in a long-lasting and fulfilling relationship. This list of books about healthy relationships will help you learn how to communicate better, resolve conflict, and deepen your connection. From classic self-help books to more modern reads, these titles will give you the tools you need to build a strong and healthy relationship.
- Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships
- Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of Every Healthy Relationship
- Love More, Fight Less: Communication Skills Every Couple Needs: A Relationship Workbook for Couples
- Infidelity Recovery Workbook for Couples: Tools and Exercises to Rebuild Your Relationship
- Healthy Me, Healthy Us: Your Relationships Are Only as Strong as You Are
- ↑ Gil-Rivas, V., Greenberger, E., Chen, C., & Montero y López-Lena, M. (2003). Understanding depressed mood in the context of a family-oriented culture. Adolescence, 38(149), 93-109.
- ↑ Meyer, D., & Sledge, R. (2021). The Relationship Between Conflict Topics and Romantic Relationship Dynamics. Journal of Family Issues, 43(2), 306–323. doi.org
- ↑ Crowley, A. K. (2006). The relationship of adult attachment style and interactive conflict styles to marital satisfaction (Master's dissertation). Texas AandM University, Houston, TX, United States.
- ↑ De Netto, P. M., Quek, K. F., & Golden, K. J. (2021). Communication, the Heart of a Relationship: Examining Capitalization, Accommodation, and Self-Construal on Relationship Satisfaction. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 767908. doi.org
- ↑ Gable, S. L., Impett, E. A., Reis, H. T., and Asher, E. R. (2004). What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 87, 228–245. doi.org
- ↑ Feeney, J. A., & Karantzas, G. C. (2017). Couple conflict: insights from an attachment perspective. Current opinion in psychology, 13, 60–64. doi.org
- ↑ Simmons, R. A., Gordon, P. C., & Chambless, D. L. (2005). Pronouns in marital interaction: What do you and I say about marital health?. Psychological science, 16(12), 932-936. doi.org
- ↑ Pike, G. R., & Sillars, A. L. (1985). Reciprocity of marital communication. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2(3), 303-324. doi.org
- ↑ Overall, N. C., Fletcher, G. J. O., Simpson, J. A., & Sibley, C. G. (2009). Regulating partners in intimate relationships: The costs and benefits of different communication strategies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(3), 620–639. doi.org
- ↑ Lewis, J. T., Parra, G. R., & Cohen, R. M. (2015). Apologies in Close Relationships: A Review of Theory and Research. Journal of Family Theory and Review, 7(1), 47–61. doi.org
- ↑ Salvatore, J. E., Kuo, S. I., Steele, R. P., Simpson, J. A., & Collins, W. A. (2011). Recovering From Conflict in Romantic Relationships. Psychological Science, 22(3), 376–383. doi.org
- ↑ Altman, L. L. (1977). Some Vicissitudes of Love. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 25(1), 35–52. doi.org
- ↑ Driver, J. L., & Gottman, J. M. (2004). Daily marital interactions and positive affect during marital conflict among newlywed couples. Family Process, 43(3), 301-314. doi.org