Disagreements can happen in any relationship, but what matters is how they are dealt with. The way you deal with an issue with your partner can determine if your relationship is healthy or unhealthy, so here are some tips to keep in mind that will help you handle your next argument in a healthy way.
1. Create a welcoming environment for open communication.
In a healthy relationship, you and your partner can communicate openly about what is bothering you and what is going well in the relationship. It’s important to not only talk about the problems in the relationship, but also the positives so no one feels like they are doing everything wrong. If you feel like you can’t talk openly about important things, like life issues, money, aspirations, and anything big picture that scares or matters to you, then that is a sign that your relationship may be unhealthy. If you can’t express your feelings without fear of retaliation from your partner or them getting overly upset and defensive, then you may be in an abusive relationship.
2. Maintain a calm and respectful demeanor during heated conversations.
Don’t cross lines and start insulting your partner. Keep the focus of the dispute on the issue at hand and don’t bring personal jibes and put-downs into it. Also, if your partner consistently gets very heated, aggressive or starts cursing, then those are signs that your relationship may be abusive. No matter what caused the argument, no one should yell at you, curse, or otherwise make you feel uncomfortable and/or scared when you are arguing. You should never feel like you are being attacked or need to tread carefully to not make your partner any angrier.
3. Get to the root of the problem.
Sometimes when you argue with your partner it is because someone’s needs are not being met. If it seems like your partner is sweating the small stuff, take a moment to evaluate whether there is a larger issue at hand. For instance, if your partner is upset that you are partying in the middle of the week, they might want you to designate more time for your relationship or be worried about you keeping your grades up. Consider things from your partner’s point of view and put yourself in their shoes – how would you feel if the roles were reversed? Be understanding of your partner instead of just trying to push your point across.
4. Watch out for arguments that stem from a need for control.
If you feel like your partner may be trying to be control what you do, then that is a BIG red flag. If your partner is mad that you text people of the opposite sex, doesn’t like you prioritizing school and responsibilities over them, pressures you to hook up with them, or tries to limit the time you spend with friends, then those are signs that your partner may be trying to control you. Even if they try to rationalize it by saying they “I’m just over-protective,” “it’s my trust issues,” or it’s “because I love you,” no one should ever try to control you, especially not your partner. If any of these behaviors sound familiar, your relationship may be abusive and you should seek help.
5. Find some middle-ground.
Finding a balance between what both partners want and are comfortable with is very important. If you both care about making the relationship work you will come to an agreement on things without feeling like you are making huge sacrifices for your relationship. Compromising is a key way to resolve conflicts, and finding a middle-ground might be easier than you think! If you are arguing about spending time with your friends or your partner’s friends, alternate days to spend time with each friend group or do your own thing for a night. If you feel like your partner is always eating all of your food, ask them to chip in the next time you go grocery shopping.
6. Agree to disagree and choose your battles.
Sometimes we need to consider whether what we are fighting about is really worth arguing over. Is it just a matter of what to eat for dinner? Sharing the covers? What your next Netflix binge should be? If the problem is small, sometimes it’s best to just drop it. If you won’t be mad about it next week, then it’s probably not worth your energy. You won’t agree with your partner on absolutely everything, and if you feel like the issue is too big to drop then you should contemplate if you and your partner are really compatible.
7. Consider if the issue is resolvable or not.
Sometimes we argue with our partner about something that is REALLY big and impacts our lives – like transferring schools, if you do or don’t want kids, and where to live when you graduate. If you feel like you will need to sacrifice your beliefs, morals, or dreams to make the relationship work, then you should think about whether this relationship is really worth staying in. For a relationship to succeed, you and your partner should see eye-to-eye on the bigger picture. Having aligned goals, dreams, values, and beliefs is a major part of being compatible with someone.
If you keep these tips in mind during your next argument, you’ll be sure to handle your future conflicts in a healthy and constructive way. No one wants to be like Noah and Allie from The Notebook – never agreeing on anything and fighting all the time – even if it means you get to turn into birds together in the end. Constant arguing, overly-heated battles, and fights that spiral out of control are all signs of an unhealthy relationship.