Addressing Relationship Distress

Though you decided you will not fall back into the same old argument cycle with your partner… you find yourself precisely down the very path you swore to never tread again.

Are you sick of the fighting?

Couple Care: Relationship Counseling for Couples in Orange CountFighting is not detrimental for relationships, however it is important to be intentional in how, and how not to fight, and it is important to understand, define and observe respectful boundaries.

It can be healing to create awareness and respect for the fact that you and your partner are entirely different people with different views and different ways of processing. Your partner’s life experiences are different from yours. Just simply acknowledging your partner’s experience in a particular instance can help de-escalate and defuse an oncoming or ongoing fight.

For example, it can be healing for your partner to hear you say “I understand your feeling unloved when I work late several days a week because it seems you interpret my working late as my not caring for you enough to spend time with you. But that is not at all how it is for me…” It can be exceptionally powerful and satisfying for your partner to feel they are heard, understood and their feelings acknowledged. At the same time, you are still holding true to your experience… of how it is for you.

Fight smart

Couple Care: Relationship Counseling for Couples in Orange CountRemember things that are said in anger may not hold true. Even if you feel strong during the fight, it does not mean you will feel the same way about the matter afterward. After tempers have cooled, the feelings might change completely.
Remember to fight smart, using ‘I’ more than ‘you’. Don’t place blame. Accentuate the positive instead of pointing out the negative. For example, rather than saying “you didn’t wash the dishes even though you knew how tired I was”, you might want to say “I would appreciate your help in washing the dishes.” Or “I feel cared for when you wash the dishes.”

Remember not to use ‘always’ and ‘never’. In the heat of the moment it is tempting to use these words, but they rarely, if ever, truly apply. Look a bit deeper into your situation and you will see this to ring true. Limit your fight to that particular incident, and refrain from generalizing and using ‘always’ or ‘never’.

Remember to not criticize, condemn, stonewall or turn defensive… Remember it’s your partner you are in this with; your loved one you are sorting things out with… it’s okay to be vulnerable!

Most relationships go through seasons and even daily weather within these seasons. To keep healthy, most relationships require intentional and mindful maintenance. Being invested in your relationship, putting in the work and weathering the storms with steadfastness, if and when they come, is key.

To repair is to re-pair

Your fight may be symbolic of the real issues which typically include feeling unheard, unloved, undervalued… or some version thereof. In a relationship, if an injury has landed advertently or in-advertently it is important to take steps to repair. Acknowledging, then validating, and then empathizing with your partner are ways to de-escalate and repair your relationship

Here are some tips on addressing relationship distress:

Condemn The Act Not The Person

Instead of criticizing your partner, talk about how it makes you feel when a hurtful act is done by your partner. Condemn the act and not your partner.

Show Compassion For Each Other

Creating a caring and compassionate dynamic in your relationship is an evergreen investment, and little acts of kindness, go a long way!

Listen… Really Listen

Listening with interest and attentiveness can lead to not only questions and new curiosities… but a great conversation!

Stop Blaming And Accept

Blame does not lead to resolution. Look at past mistakes with the goal of learning from them, not with the goal of finding your partner’s mistakes. Accept past mistakes with grace.

Acknowledge the Positive

On seeing positive behaviors, actions, suggestions, solutions… acknowledge and encourage these!

Recall The Reasons That Drew You Together

Don’t forget your love story!

Hold Back The Reaction… Act, Don’t React

While trying to resolve a fight think through everything you say… don’t react! Consider how to express calmly and constructively, from a place of compassion. Your reaction may include reflection – reflecting back to your partner calmly what you heard them say.

Talk When It Doesn’t Tire The Mind

Avoid sensitive conversation topics when you are tired, overwhelmed or overly distraught. It may lead to flare-ups.

Prioritize Relationship Not Ego

Remember it is okay to not always have the last word. It is okay to not always be right. And it is okay to prioritize love above all else!

Touch Often

Even when things are awry… a simple compassionate (non-sexual) gesture of touch is a non-verbal way of telling your partner you love them.

In conclusion, with consistent and intentional effort, and the realization that you are in your relationship with a whole other person who will not always be the way you want her or him to be, and who may interpret the same instance vastly differently from you, you find you have the space for these differences, and you are fighting less.

Suggested Further Reads –

Relationship Tips – Fundamental Relationship Needs

How to Save Your Marriage or Relationship

Relationship Counselling Orange County, CA