A: My husband and I are pretty good about making up after a fight and getting back on an even keel, but I'm wondering how to avoid or prevent conflict in a relationship. Is it possible?
I'd like to live in a calmer house where we don't set each other off so often.
Q: How do you prevent conflict or avoid a fight in your relationship?
The answer is not don't have one, because we are human and connection and friction are part of human nature.
All relationships have some conflict, and in fact, learning conflict resolution skills strengthens your relationship. Learning through practice to deal with smaller issues of disagreement helps you to cope as a couple when the bigger issues crop up and are more serious.
But many couples have too much friction.
They bicker, nag and constantly argue or disagree so there is more driving them to divide than there is keeping the harmony and happiness between them.
If you feel your relationship has too much little - or big - conflict and would benefit from less bickering, then there are some key steps to take to bring peace in your life, home and love.
1. Not everything you think needs to be said out loud. Remember the ratio 5 to 1. For every one negative thing you say, five positive ones need to be said to balance it to ensure your partner feels loved, appreciated and valued. Nurture your relationship by saying more positive things than negative ones. Define your partner by what they do right and well, rather than by what they don't do or do less than perfectly.
2. When you first go to react to something negative or something you disagree with - that moment before an argument is about to begin, pause. Ask yourself how important this particular issue is to fight about and if this is the right moment in which to have the argument. Granted, it is difficult to pause your reaction when you've been emotionally triggered. So practise this in calmer moments by pausing before you speak during a non-contentious conversation. It may feel stilted at first, but you are training your brain to take a nano-second to allow you to collect your thoughts before reacting. This is good practice that will make it easier to do when you're more emotional and ready to jump to a criticism, defence or response in conflict.
3. Realise your triggers and understand your partner's triggers to conflict. Try to either avoid them or tread lightly around them knowing when someone is triggered they are likely not going to be rational, calm or balanced. By understanding your partner's hot buttons, you can communicate in a more effective way, rather than a damaging one.
4. Be aware that some fights are not about the subject matter. Maybe it's something that runs deeper, or maybe they, or you, are just having a bad day. Try to ask yourself why you're having a fight, early into it, and attempt to redirect it. As soon as you hear your or your partner's voice escalate, or the argument has hit the five minute mark, stop and take a break. Go calm down.
5. Talk with your partner about the argument afterwards and discuss how to avoid having the same argument over and over as many couples do. Make agreements how to stop the next time you start in on the same issue. Do you regularly fight about kids? Money? Shared domestic duties? Extended family issues? Personality traits or annoyances? At a calm time, negotiate your strategy as a couple to deal with the particular issue and rather than engage in the fight the next time it comes up, stop, remind yourself and your partner that you made agreements about this issue and step away from each other and go look at where you wrote them down.
6. Spend plenty of happy time together. It's harder to fight with someone you adore and have lots of happy time with. Infuse your relationship with daily gratitude and laughter to stave off daily belittling, bickering and berating. Happiness itself is a tonic against constant conflict.