- Isabelle Morley, PsyD
Fighting A Lot? Do These 2 Things First
If you want fights with your partner to be less frequent or damaging, there are 2 key things you can and should do right away.
No one likes fighting with the person they love.
Especially if those fights are frequent, intense, and long.
While there are lots of great ways of reducing conflict and having better, more productive fights, these strategies are only helpful if you have a strong emotional foundation from which to practice them.
These things seem so basic but let me tell you, most of us forget to start with these 2 self-care items. And skipping these things will make us more irritable, less patient, and less able to effectively manage conflicts.
And the good news is that these things are in your control to change! You can't stop your partner from forgetting to lock the car, but you can do these 2 simple things.
1. Get Enough Sleep
You need to get enough good, quality sleep. This is always true, but even more so when you're in a bad spot with your partner.
Sleep is the great regulator of our lives. It sets our circadian rhythm, structures our days, helps us regulate our emotions, and gives us energy.
You will not be able to stray calm and grounded during an argument if you haven't had good sleep. You won't be able to listen or communicate as effectively, either.
Don't stay up until the morning fighting with your partner. The more sleep deprived you become, the more out of control the argument will get.
Ignore the advice "don't go to bed angry." I want you to go to bed angry if it means you're getting enough sleep. Not every argument needs to be fixed before 12am.
If you're having a hard time sleeping while fighting with your partner, see it an opportunity to practice emotion regulation. Even if you're fighting, you should be able to put aside the issue and take care of yourself.
2. Skip the Alcohol
This is especially true if your fights are happening when one or both of you is drinking.
Alcohol affects the way we think and feel. Years and years of research has shown this. It affects your judgment and lowers you inhibitions, making you more likely to say things you'll regret (and to say them in an overly harsh way, too).
People have their worst, most out of control arguments when they've been drinking. One way to prevent fights from getting ugly is to stop drinking until you have a better handle on things.
If you or your partner us unable or unwilling to give up alcohol, even just for a few weeks or months, you may need to consider if there is a bigger problem. You should be able to skip the sauce if it means potentially improving/saving your relationship, and if you can't, you may not have as much control over your drinking as you think.
Once you've done these two things, now it's time for the real work. If you're still fighting frequently, or fights are getting out of hand, then you need to step up your game.
Check to see if you're making some common mistakes during arguments, and try to do things differently. Make sure you aren't letting your partner's mood dictate your own. Stop scorekeeping. Learn when and how to take breaks from arguments so that they don't escalate.
If nothing works, get professional help. Find a qualified couples therapist to help you both learn how to communicate better and feel more connected.