Fights happen in any relationship no matter how much you’re living a Love Story, Taylor Swift-style. Sometimes silly fights get in the way of happy relationships and other times silly fights can turn sour real fast (kinda like my roommate’s old milk in the fridge). Here are some tips on how to keep your cool when you really just want to strangle the one you love (kidding… sort of).
Relationship expert and author Alisa Bowman admitted at one point in her life she wanted her husband to drop dead. If that’s not a love story, I don’t know what is. Now Bowman has fallen back in love with her husband and dedicates her life to saving unhappy marriages. Her book is called “Project: Happily Ever After” and focuses on saving your marriage when the fairytale falters. Even though many of us are not married quite yet, these conflict resolution tips can still apply to the typical college student’s romantic relationships.
Bowman suggests that “many of us latch onto dysfunctional fighting tactics much like hoarders who hold onto garbage.” Whoa whoa whoa – did she just compare me to a hoarder? Whatevs. Bowman advises that an individual’s current fighting style might not be particularly effective in terms of fighting fairly. She also explains it’s easy to swear and say mean things, but it’s more important to avoid this verbal garbage. So clean it up!
Some common “dysfunctional fighting tactics” include: the silent treatment, retaliation—you feel hurt about one thing so you intentionally do something to hurt your spouse, blame, ultimatums and threats (‘If you don’t do this, then I’ll…’), and pleading (‘Could you please do this? This once? For me?).’ Even though I’m like totally perfect, I admit that I am guilty of these tactics.
In order to avoid these dysfunctional fighting tactics, Bowman advises we should all work on three main skills: listening, being assertive (in a kind way), and problem solving. And FYI, forcing yourself to not hang up the phone during an argument doesn’t exactly qualify as listening. It takes more than that. Listening to your significant other also means not rolling your eyes, smirking, or planning your next attack while your bf/gf is talking. This basic but difficult skill actually requires a lot more effort than it might seem. You are trying to understand your significant other’s side, not thinking of ways to counter it.
Being assertive seems like the last thing that could help fix a fight, but it’s the skill that allows a full-blown freak out to turn into a productive and peaceful conversation. The trick is to ask for what you want without demanding. Bowman suggests talking in a softer voice so your bf/gf will have to strain a little in order to hear you, thus making them pay more attention. Boo ya. Louder voices are scary and could flip on the defensive switch. She also recommends using fewer sentences rather than ranting for 20 minutes. The terser you are, the more likely every word will actually be heard. Bowman advises “to phrase requests in three sentences or fewer.”
Finally, the most critical skill of them all, problem solving. It is obvious that you and your bf/gf don’t share all of the same thoughts, opinions, and hobbies, but sometimes in a close relationship, we forget that. During the times when you want one thing and he wants something else, fight the urge to get mad. Even though you are a princess and you deserve everything you want, sometimes you just have to bend a little and compromise. They aren’t the devil, they just don’t agree and that’s okay too. Get ready for this killer quote: “Too often, arguments are a result of two people who are trying to control the outcome rather than solve the problem. Let’s say, for instance, that you are lonely. Instead of stating the problem ‘I am lonely’ you jump right to the solution ‘I want you to watch less of that stupid baseball.’ Maybe there’s a different solution, one that you both can live with. Look for a win-win.” YES.
It’s going to take a lot of practice to develop and successfully utilize these skills, but eventually you will get better the more you use them. Fights will happen and sometimes one of you will lose your temper, but the main goal is to keep trying. The next time you want to go to Applebee’s but he wants to go to Chili’s, use the opportunity to start fighting fair (and hopefully you win).
Make sure to check out the site www.projecthappilyeverafter.com for awesome and very realistic links about relationship information. Read it with your frog to help make your fairytale a reality.
Micki Kociemba is a senior majoring in Graphic Design and Public Relations. She is from Melrose, MN a small town cluttered with cows and cornfields. Kociemba’s opinions articles are a reflection of her quirky, silly, but always fabulous life which makes her our very own hot mess of the Hot Messages Column. She enjoys spending time with her pet guinea pig, painting, traveling, complaining, and of course spending money.