By Linda G. Ritchie, Ph.D.
All couple experience conflict. This is a normal and expected part of any relationship. While an occasional argument might be unavoidable and can even ultimately clarify boundaries within the relationship, a pattern of habitual fighting left unchecked puts the relationship at risk.
When couples first meet, they may experience no conflict. This is the infatuation stage of a relationship when both people may feel they have met the perfect partner, and happiness reigns supreme. But as time goes by, any relationship is molded not only by the similarities between the partners but also by the differences that bring interest, mystery, and complexity, and conflict to the relationship. Lasting relationships involve navigating many of life’s passages together. Dealing with conflict constructively can clarify each partner’s needs and allow each to maintain a sense of personal integrity within the relationship. Each person can hold on to the qualities that made him or her attractive to the other in the first place. The difference between a happy and an unhappy relationship is often due to how the partners resolve conflict.
Some people avoid arguments out of apprehension that their underlying anger, which can get triggered during an argument, will go out of control. Others find it difficult to argue since thy feel inadequate within the relationship. Some people were exposed to bitter arguments during childhood and don’t want to repeat the pattern of their unhappy parents during their own adulthood. When people just hate to argue, for whatever reason they frequently make up prematurely without resolving the issue in order to avoid conflict. Or, they may resort to fighting unfairly to gain power over their partner instead of coming to a compromise and strengthening their commitment to the relationship.
When goodwill and trust are damaged, the probability of using dirty fighting techniques increases. Dirty fighting techniques include the following:
- Put Downs
- Laughing At
- Rejecting Compromise
When you use dirty fighting techniques to win an argument, both you and your partner ultimately lose. Especially when dealing with differences, it’s important to stay grounded with good will, empathy, openness to learning, and negotiating solutions that will help your relationship succeed. If a relationship reaches the point where arguments are frequent and damaging, the couple may need to make a commitment to resolve the problem and try more productive methods of relating of difficult topics. Relationship therapy, which focuses in part on establishing new communication patterns, aims to facilitate this goal.
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