After living with your partner for a while, you fall into comfortable patterns. Sometimes, the patterns come to feel like home in and of themselves; you feel cared for and safe. Everything seems to be going well (sits back and relaxes*). You’re not out of the woods yet, though (sits back up*). Communication between you and your partner can also start to look pretty routine. Unfortunately, at certain points in your relationship, conflicts can keep popping up again and again too—often about seemingly trivial things. “Why can’t we move past this?” you wonder.
Whether you’ve lived here in Oakland all your life, or are from somewhere halfway across the world, anyone can get stuck using the same language with your spouse and using a pattern of not really hearing each other.
The good news is that you can stop the fight without stopping all the good stuff too (phew!*). It just might take some extra work.
When arguments become repetitive, a few things have probably happened: You’re angry not just about what’s happening now, but also about the memory of the last fight. And your fuse is so short, it feels much easier to spar with each other than to talk.
5 Steps to End the Eternal Fight
1. Take a seat
If you and your partner have been arguing about your workloads around the house, the next time your partner doesn’t unload the dishwasher, feelings of blame and unfairness can crop up immediately. You might feel like you just want to get all your anger out while it’s boiling. Taking a “time-out” to sit down with each other gives you a few moments to collect yourselves, and it makes resolving the conflict your central focus.
2. Disagree as a team
When you and your partner argue, it’s all too easy to let the disconnect take center stage. Maybe you say hurtful things to each other, not caring in the moment how the remark might land. If you commit to sticking together even when you’re fighting, showing flashes of affection amidst the hail storm, it often becomes less about who’s right or wrong, and more about moving on together.
3. Take responsibility
Sometimes when you’re arguing with your partner or spouse, it can be tempting to immediately say “no!” to all accusations, even if the angry words belie some kernel of truth. When you take responsibility for the things you really have done or said, you stop the verbal ping-pong, and start moving toward something that looks a little less like anger, and a little more like discussion.
4. Find the subtext
Seemingly trivial arguments about chores or social commitments are often the tip of much murkier icebergs. It makes sense that if you assume the worst about your partner, you’d be pretty upset. Rather than jumping to a conclusion about your spouse’s motivations, be inquisitive. Be inquisitive about your own motivations and feelings too. Explain that you’re not really angry about a dirty dish, it’s more that you feel like you often have to retrace his steps for him.
5. Find solutions
When you and your partner are left to your own emotional devices, you might get so caught up in arguing that you don’t get to the best part—moving forward. Offer up solutions, even if you’re not sure they’ll work. Show your partner that working on your life together is always your main goal (riding into sunset*).