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September 30, 2019

How to Stop Bickering, Fight Fair and Avoid Blowouts

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After a week on the seas with Desire Experiences, Jess retuned to Toronto today to join Carolyn and Vicki on The Morning Show and answer viewer questions about fighting in relationships. Check out the video and recap below.

We got married in the Spring and fought with and about his parents during the whole wedding planning process. Now it seems like we’re fighting about every little thing every day – chores, work, time with friends. How can we nip this fighting in the bud as newlyweds?

A new study found that couples who fight about the more manageable resolvable issues fare better in the long run.

Rather than trying to resolve all of your feelings related to his family, start with the little things: household chores, where/when you work and how you spend time with friends. When you take a solution-oriented approach to more concrete resolvable issues, you’ll likely achieve success together and this can help you to build trust and security.

As you develop this foundation, you’ll be better equipped to approach some of the bigger issues in the long run. But if you start with them, you may find that it wears away at your connection and intimacy because they’re not easily resolvable.

Just as breaking problems at work into small manageable pieces can boost teamwork, trust and confidence, so too can addressing the little issues help to lay the foundation for a harmonious relationship.

Please help us settle a dispute. My husband always walks away when we’re fighting and says he needs time to think. I want to resolve the issue right away. Whose way is the right way?

Neither way is universally right or wrong, but research does suggest that cooling off can help you to ensure that you fight fair. When you’re physiologically aroused, you’re less empathetic, rational and trusting (in part due to hyper vigilance). Your husband may recognize his own triggers and know that he’ll be better equipped to have an honest and solution-focused conversation if he calms down first.

If you feel frustrated or fearful when he walks away, you also have every right to ask for reassurance. Oftentimes when couples face this dynamic (a perceived withdrawal and a desire to engage), the partner who wants to engage can be fearful of abandonment or worry that their partner isn’t committed to investing in the relationship. Let him know how you’re feeling and what he can do to support you — and of course, work on your own coping mechanisms (e.g. reminding yourself that his need to a cool off period isn’t evidence that he doesn’t care — in fact, it may represent the opposite).

I’m 46 and I still fight with my older sister – mostly about our kids who are total opposites. We have to spend a week in a house together next month for my parents’ anniversary in Phoenix and I want to avoid a blowout like last time. Any tips?

Plan ahead as much as possible: if you’re sharing a house, plan meals and responsibilities. Make shoulder-to-shoulder plans (as opposed to face-to-face) for the entire group. Consider who might serve as a buffer between you and your sister and dig into the little details that might cause tension — how you will split bills, who will do the driving, sleeping arrangements and how you’ll divide your time.

Of course, you could talk to her ahead of time and let her know that you love her and want to enjoy your time together. But not everyone is open to honest, vulnerable conversations and you often can’t undo decades of strife in one conversation. If you really want to work on the relationship, you might suggest seeing a therapist together. If that’s not possible and this is an issue you’d like to work on, talk to a therapist yourself to address the ways in which you can adjust your reactions. You can’t control her behavior, but you can adjust the way you approach and respond to her.

If you’re interested in how Jess and Brandon resolve their arguments, listen to this podcast episode and be sure to subscribe for practical relationship insights you can use to cultivate happier connections and a more fulfilling life.