Five Things You Can Do To Fight Less

The vast majority of arguments between couples happen because one (or both) of the people have some unmet needs. If you can learn to take care of these needs (or ask your spouse to help you meet these needs), you will have a healthier relationship. Here are five things you can do to remove contention and get along better. 

1. HALT. Before you engage with your spouse, ask yourself if either of you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. These four things cause tempers to flare and feelings to get hurt. Never talk about anything important before you have eaten, slept, relaxed, and connected. 

2. Learn to recognize your emotions. Label them clearly when you are thinking and talking about them. You can study Plutchik's Wheel of Emotion to learn the names of emotions and how they relate to each other. Sometimes just labeling an emotion correctly and acknowledging it will release it. If you notice your partner is overreacting to something small, ask some gentle questions to figure out what they are feeling and why. Chances are high that whatever they are upset about is representative of something else. If notice yourself or your spouse consistently overreacting, consider seeing a family counselor, such as those at The Center for Family Counseling, Inc. They can help you uncover those buried emotions. 

3. Take a breath. Before you talk to your partner about something important, take a few seconds to do a couple of things. First, ask yourself how strong your emotion is. Label it from one to ten. Then, ask yourself whether or not the situation warrants the number you gave it. If the number is too high, picture removing the emotion from your body (view it as a ball you are holding), taking some of it out, and releasing it. Once you are aware of how you are feeling, move to the next step.

4. Plan your conversation. Take a minute or two to decide exactly what you want to say. Only choose to say things that are fair, kind, and helpful. You can definitely tell your partner how you are feeling, but don't blame him or her or use exaggerating words (like "always" or "never"). 

5. Learn to validate yourself. Your partner cannot validate all of your emotions, even if they try. Here are some things you can do to validate yourself:

  • ask yourself what you are hoping your spouse will say and then say it to yourself
  • frequently ask yourself what you need right now and then meet those needs
  • pay attention to what you are feeling and tell yourself that you have a right to feel what you are feeling 
  • write down the things you love about yourself in your journal

As you and your partner do these five things, you will be able to connect more and fight less. Good luck!