Tips with Trish: lover or fighter

Dear Trish,

My boyfriend and I fight a lot. We just can’t seem to get along lately. We’ve been together for over a year.  I love him and don’t want to break up with him, but the fighting is really draining and makes me doubt things.  I just don’t know what to do.  Please give me some guidance.

Signed,
Not a Fighter

Trish says,

When there is a lot of fighting in a relationship it is often a communication problem. It’s definitely okay to have disagreements, and actually, believe it or not, it can be healthy. Some couples don’t argue at all, which may not always be a good thing.  It could be that they don’t want to disagree or are afraid of being honest at the risk of hurting the other.  Tact and being considerate is a good thing; not being completely honest and holding back feelings is another thing all together.  It is good that you are communicating, but too much fighting or resentment can be toxic to a relationship.

If a situation happened and one of you got upset, you need to address it with the other person. Sometimes it helps to have time to process the situation and cool down if you are really upset and then talk about it. When you are ready to talk with the other person you will want to communicate what happened with no distractions. It is best to be at a place where both of you are willing to listen and work through the problem. Once you have discussed the problem, make a plan on how both of you will move forward, and try and avoid having the same situation happen again. I call this the plan of action. Sometimes each person will need a friendly reminder to follow the plan that you both discussed and agreed on to help yourself communicate better.

If this doesn’t seem to help, chances are that there is a deeper issue. It could be jealousy; one partner may be feeling insecure, one may not be getting his/her needs met in the relationship, or it could be related to something else completely, and the stress is just having a negative impact on the couple.  Figure it out and go from there. Using “I” statements is always good for getting at the real feelings behind the issues. I know they are cliché but, they work. Trust me.

Communication problems are one of the top reasons that couples divorce in the United States. My guess is that some of those individuals have never learned good skills in communicating. For some, their parents did not role model good communication skills or demonstrated unhealthy or disrespectful ways of communicating. There is something called fighting fair. Some things to remember when fighting fair is:
-Remain calm or agree to discuss the situation when you have had some
time apart and can return and be calm.
-Speak one at a time and allow for equal time.
-Show personal respect and avoid name calling.
-No violence or threats of violence.
-Avoid absolute terms like “always” or “never”.
-Express feelings in words and not actions.
-Don’t stockpile and save gripes to unload all at once.
-Admit when you are wrong.
-Avoid accusations and generalizations.
-Look for a compromise.

My last thought for good communication is from the recent Cinderella movie, “Have courage and be kind.” Don’t be afraid to talk, and remember that kindness always goes a long way.

Signed,
Trish

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