A Couple’s Guide to Fighting: 5 Tips from a Man’s Perspective

There’s no secret to ending the maddening cycle of arguments that leave you wondering how it got so heated, even when you can’t remember what you were arguing about in the first place. Breaking away from this destructive pattern just takes is a little training – for both of you. The fact is, the manner in which a couple fights is a great indicator of relationship health and its future course; those that fight dirty are left with lingering feelings of bitterness and hurt, while those that fight fair can actually grow through their spats. Contrary to popular belief, no ONE wins a fight, either both individuals in the relationship win or everyone loses. So, what are the keys to productive fights? Here are five easy ways to ensure your arguments don’t turn into full-on wars: a man’s perspective on relationship spats.

1. No name calling. Despite our macho mannerisms and crippling inability to show our emotions, names hurt. Whether it’s a sarcastic jab or a piercing curse word, name calling represents disrespect. What you are saying to your mate is, “I don’t value you enough to treat you with dignity and respect”, while at the same time you are lowering yourself to the level of a third grader. The key to success here is: just don’t do it – ever. 2. Don’t use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’. Statements like “You never take out the trash” or “You always forget to pay the bills” are not only untrue (who never or always does anything), but they also make us defensive and want to just shut down. Using this type of argument shifts our focus to proving that we aren’t always or never doing those things. A defensive posture isn’t productive for anyone because these types of arguments circumvent the true reason for the discussion, which is why our behaviors aren’t acceptable. Focusing on the true problem (asking why we aren’t doing something) strips away all the peripheral junk and helps solve the core issue. 3. Don’t walk away. I think men are more prone this than women, but turning your back on an argument just irritates us. I’m not advocating lingering in a fight that has escalated too far (sometimes everyone needs a ten minute break), but avoiding resolution to an argument just allows feelings to stew. When an argument hits a brick wall, try another avenue of communication by altering your approach. Arguments within a relationship should be like a negotiation, so if one tactic causes a breakdown in communication, bring something else to the table. Also, using the dreaded “W” word (i.e. whatever) is just infuriating and causes an immediate dissolution of the discussion – eliminate this word from your argument vocabulary today. 4. Don’t bring your family or friends into the fight. How many of you ladies have begun a statement with “My mother agrees that you should…”, or “My father would never…?” Nothing is more emasculating to a man than his girl reminding him that her father is in some way superior in maintaining the house/ fathering children/bringing home a paycheck/etc. Even if you don’t use family and friends to directly confront your mate, don’t use them to conduct clandestine attacks after a fight. Telling your girlfriend or mother about the nasty engagement from the night before not only paints your mate in a poor light, but also undermines your relationship by maintaining your focus on the negative. Sometimes it’s just better to keep it to yourself until you cool off and have a chance to resolve the issue within the relationship. Plus, you’ll be surprised at how your perception of the relationship will change when you stop complaining about your mate to every ear that will listen. Repetition of negativity just breeds contempt. 5. Communicate with “When-It” statements. It may seem counter intuitive to suggest an argument can be a productive for a relationship, but by using the When-It sentence format, you can shift to an affirmative and efficient communication style. Here’s an example: “When you watch T.V. all evening, it makes me feel like I’m a low priority for you.” Communicating in this manner appeals to our man-brains in several ways. First, it’s very direct, which means we don’t have to guess at what you meant to say because you actually said what you meant to say. Second, it points out the problem without directly attacking our faults while at the same time making the solution to the problem very apparent. If he resists by saying something like “That’s not true, you are my first priority”, then move one step further by countering with “But, that’s how your actions make me feel, so maybe tomorrow night we can spend some time together.” After all, you catch more flies with honey…

Learning a constructive way to fight is a life-long goal. We learn how to fight from watching our parents or from past relationships, and if you and your mate are like most people, you don’t have many good examples from which to draw upon. To retrain yourself, you may have to start small with the no name calling suggestion and work from there. And, if you are reading this and thinking, “This is all fine, but he doesn’t fight fair so why should I”, remember that someone has to make the first step. If you implement these rules and your mate doesn’t follow your lead, maybe that person isn’t worth being with. Ultimately, your goal isn’t to stop arguing (because men and women will never be able to live in complete harmony), but to do so in manner in which no one has to sleep on the couch.

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