6 Communication Skills That Will Help You Love Your Partner Even More After A Fight

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How To Communicate Better, Fight Less & Have A Healthy Relationship

In a perfect world, couples would never fight. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and people in relationships often feel misunderstood, neglected, insecure, and any number of other emotions that can lead to fights and disagreements.

That doesn’t mean your relationship is headed for doom and gloom, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you're any 'less connected' as a couple. But it is likely an indicator of where your communication skills could be improved.

Arguing happens even in healthy relationships, and if it’s done respectfully and you both come out of it with a better understanding of the other person when the conflict is resolved.

The key to arguing in a healthy way is to learn some effective communication skills — and the best way to learn how to communicate better is to do it together!

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Putting some thought into what you want to say (and how you'll say it) before you engage in a disagreement with your partner is wise, and making a point to communicate effectively and with compassion is some of the best relationship advice any therapist can give.

Here are some basic communication skills you should practice regularly in order to keep your conversations productive (and your relationship healthy):

  • Be very specific when you introduce your complaint.
  • State what change would satisfy your complaints.
  • Bring up only one issue at a time: get one issue fully resolved before moving on to another.
  • Be prepared to compromise — win/win is the ultimate goal.
  • Never assume: ask your partner what they're thinking or feeling.

Now, all of that said, once you step into the arena of an argument, it's easy for things to go awry quickly.

So, here are six rules to help you "fight nice" the next time you and your partner squabble:

1. Agree on a code of behavior.

In most relationships, there’s one person who’s more verbal. If this is you, you might feel you have a partner who shuts down when arguments arise.

People need to be allowed to quit on the discussion temporarily and return to the discussion at a mutually agreed-upon moment. This allows the less-verbal to have some control over timing (spontaneity is not usually their friend). But there are people who will always quit on a discussion and will never re-approach or resolve the problem.

If this sounds like your partner, go back and review the fight rules together, strike what you can’t agree on, and write more rules of your own that apply specifically to your relationship. If you can agree on a code of behavior, it levels the playing field for both the verbal and less-verbal player and will make communication and resolving a disagreement a bit easier.

2. Set a time limit.

Someone who avoids confrontation is often someone with limited focus, and a time limit helps to maintain focus on the topic at hand. A time limit also helps the more verbal person to work on being succinct and get to the bottom line more quickly.

Don’t explain why you want what you want, when you first wanted it, and so on, in great detail. Your listener could be worn out before you’ve gotten around to saying what you want. Try saying what you want, quickly, with no explanation of why you need it or why you should be getting what you are asking for. Then get the feedback. Maybe there’s nothing more to say.

This is a key communication skill not just in relationships, but in your career, as well.

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3. Don’t dredge up the past.

Yes, fights are often rooted in the past, but you can’t fix the past, only the present. The worst thing you can do in a fight (other than physically or verbally attacking, which should never happen) is to drag the past into it, and blame someone today for something he or she did a week, a year, or a month ago.

Save talks about the past for times when you’re not fighting.

4. Listen, listen, listen.

When you’re working out a disagreement with your partner, be sure to give your undivided attention, make eye contact, and stay rooted to the spot.

Taking a phone call or texting isn’t only ineffective listening, it can be hurtful. If you look like you’re listening, you are communicating that you truly care and care about what is being discussed. Even if an agreement isn’t reached, your partner will at least walk away feeling heard — one of the best pieces of relationship advice is that people should always make sure their partner feels heard.

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5. Don't interrupt your partner.

Be especially mindful not to finish sentences or try to “help” your partner communicate in a fight. Don’t help.

You can and should restate what you believe he or she is trying to communicate to you, but a fight is really not the time to put words into his mouth, finish his sentences, or tell her how she feels.

6. Don’t be afraid to go to bed mad.

Contrary to old-fashioned relationship advice, going to bed angry is not the worst thing in the world. Couples’ fights often happen at night. Sometimes it’s because people are tired, which makes everything seem more dramatic.

If you can go to sleep with a truce or a pause, whatever it was you were fighting over may not seem so bad and sometimes not even memorable after you’ve slept on it and in the light of day.

Some couples argue more often and find it's part of their sense of passion. They might just be more emotional, and that works for them.

No matter who you are, fighting stops working or being constructive when you break the rules.

If one or both of you begins making cruel remarks, then you’re just creating garbage.

You can be colorful, but never be cruel. If you’ve said something so terrible about your partner that it is unforgettable, you’ve damaged your love and trust and a healthy relationship cannot move forward without those two things.

It’s important to keep a sufficiently cool head when fighting to remember that your objective is an even stronger, loving bond when the fight is over.

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Dr. Janet Page is a psychotherapist working with individuals, couples, and groups in New York City and Atlanta and is available for appointments, consultation, or speaking engagements. Learn more on her website.

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This article was originally published at The Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.