Have you noticed how you and your partner always end up fighting about the same issues? You can’t stand her bossy interfering mother and she is always moaning about your poker nights with the boys.
Round and round the same arguments you go, so when it starts you already know what she’s going to say. And she pretty much knows what you’re going to say.
And therein lies the problem: You don’t listen to each other anymore; you just say what you want to say and that’s that.
But take a step back a minute. How come the fights are always about the same things?
You end up there because that specific issue has not been dealt with properly. So the argument started over him being late for dinner, or your poor driving habits or the children’s school and once again you end up fighting about money. No matter what the issue is today, the argument ends up about the same issue again and again.
The topics change but the issue stays the same. It stands to reason that the issue keeps coming up because it hasn’t been resolved.
This is actually an opportunity to deal with the real issue.
“Couples have the same fight because they haven’t learned the communication skills necessary to respond differently to each other,” relationship expert Sheryl Paul, M.D. explains to mindbodygreen.
“The fights aren’t about the story; they’re about partners becoming triggered and getting caught in a pattern.”
This is the point: some issue triggers a response from both people and then they get caught up in a familiar pattern of tit for tat.
You need to break the pattern, but how?
Here are some strategies Paul suggests.
1. Don’t escalate the argument.
Paul explains: “When couples learn how to de-escalate—which means they disengage as soon as they’re in a reactive or defensive stance with each other and reengage when they’re hearts are open—they can talk from a vulnerable place about what’s really being triggered, which is usually some form of fear and doesn’t include blame.”
All this means is to not make matters worse than it already is. Try to stay calm and not to focus on your anger. Rather try to figure out what emotion is really behind your anger.
What is your anger and your lashing out really covering up?
Are you really feeling hurt or insecure? Are you afraid for some reason?
If you can pinpoint your feelings, you will be able to see the real issue more clearly. And then you can deal with what’s really bothering you.
2. Resist the urge to be right.
This is great advice. As Paul points out, while winning an argument feels good, being happy is better. Anyway, why should there always be someone who is right and someone who is wrong? What’s the point?
I know of a couple who used to play this game where every person got an half an hour to be right, no matter what. The game cured both of them of the need to be right, with one of them always preventing a fight from escalating beyond a certain point by simply stating: “Okay, you want to be right. You’re right. And you can be right for the next 30 minutes!”
3. Start the fight on the right footing.
Danielle Dowling, a doctor of psychology and life coach, suggests getting your fight off on the right foot, reports mindbodygreen.
“If you start an argument with coldness or accusations, the interaction will likely end with that—and likely to an elevated degree,” she explains.
She suggests starting the discussion in a positive, gentle way that shows you are sincere about your desire to sort out the issue between you.
Even better, make sure your partner understands that you are looking for a solution that will work for both of you.
Taking responsibility for yourself and your actions and expressing any complaints without blaming or shaming your partner will go a long way to making a difficult conversation somewhat easier.
Dowling also suggests that you make sure you state that you are speaking from your personal perspective by using the phrase “I feel when …” instead of accusing your partner.