The key to resolving conflict is to play by the rules.
Have you ever gotten into an argument with your significant other and felt like they weren't fighting fair? Maybe they bring up an issue from the past that's totally irrelevant, or one of you gets upset and says something hurtful.
Before you know it, you can be so far away from what started the original argument that it makes you wonder how you even got there in the first place.
Why does this happen? That part's easy: people are emotional creatures and according to science, stress can short-circuit our logic and reasoning abilities.
But the better question to ask is: "How does this happen and what can I do to stop it?"
This one is a little trickier because it requires the discipline to objectively examine the arguments you're making and understanding a concept many people might be unfamiliar with: logical fallacies.
Logical fallacies. Basically, if you make one of the mistakes below, your arguments probably don't add up. It's as simple as that, no matter how righteous you may feel. And surprise! It's SUPER likely one or both of you are guilty of at least a few of these.
When you realize that both of you are making faulty arguments at each other, it's no wonder so many fights seem to go nowhere, never get resolved, or end up with both parties hurt and confused.
On the flipside, making sound, logical arguments in your relationship — fighting "fair" — can help resolve conflict with a fraction of the drama.
Take a look at this list and see if you're guilty of any of these:
1. You misrepresent your partner's argument and then tear down his position that was never really true in the first place.
Example: "Who am I going out with tonight? I guess you won't be happy until you put a GPS on my car and tap my phone like a psycho."
Why it's toxic: By defeating arguments your partner isn't even really making, you're just avoiding the elephant in the room. You can't resolve the conflict unless you talk about the actual conflict.
2. You automatically assume that "one thing leads to another," even when there are many possible outcomes.
Example: "I see you're going out to happy hour with your coworker Tina again. It's only a matter of time before you cheat on me with her."
Why it's toxic: Your partner cannot defend themselves from your imagination. Just because something CAN happen doesn't mean you should assume it will.
In the above example, it'd be better to tackle why you feel insecure than to preemptively accuse him of cheating. There's probably a way for him to see his friend and have you feel good about it, too.
3. You argue that there are only two possible explanations or outcomes (usually opposing extremes) when there's actually a spectrum (or grey area).
Example: "If you don't do this for me, you don't love me."
Why it's toxic: When it comes to relationships, nothing is ever black and white. In this situation, you're forcing your partner into a corner and choosing their answer for them, essentially.
4. You avoid the topic and attack your partner instead.
Example: "Don't ask me where I slept last night. Ask yourself why you're a nosy assh*le."
Why it's toxic: Intimidating your partner into backing down from their argument doesn't mean you've won. Hurting the other person doesn't make you right.
5. You ask a question that already presumes something that may not be true.
Why it's toxic: By jumping to a conclusion, you're not giving your partner the chance to defend themselves against your accusation. What if you're wrong? You might have already gone down the wrong path, and it takes even more energy to double back and set things straight.
6. You claim something to be true solely because many people believe it to be so.
Example: "You say you're just friends, but everyone knows that guys can't be platonic friends with women."
Why it's toxic: The bandwagon could be wrong, for one. And even if the bandwagon is very often correct in your particular situation, there are exceptions to every rule. There's no substitute for actually addressing the facts at hand.
7. You use an isolated example or personal experience to assume a conclusion instead of the facts at hand.
Example: "Olivia's fiancé slept with a stripper at his bachelor party. No way I'm letting you go to Vegas for yours."
Why it's toxic: Every relationship is totally different, and it's unfair to judge your partner by someone else's actions.
8. You you attempt to manipulate your partner's emotions instead of using reason and logic.
Example: "Why are you asking for sex when you know I'm not in the mood? Don't you know how much stress that puts me under?"
Why it's toxic: You probably don't need me to explain why being emotionally manipulative is bad for your relationship. You just might not realize you're doing it.
In the above example, you're making your partner feel guilty just because the two of you disagree. You shouldn't have to upset someone to get your point across, even if they're upsetting you.