Fighting right is key to happiness. The holiday season can often feel like you’re one mulled wine away from losing it. This is the time of year when it’s especially important to know when to pick your battles with your mate. And even more important is knowing how to best duke it out.
First of all: no actual duking. Second, according to a new study out of the University of Texas at Austin, couple fights are best diffused through the careful use of “analytical” key words. Words like “think,” “understand,” “because” and “reason.”
By “careful,” I’m pretty sure they don’t mean telling your sweet, honey, darling, binkie-poo that you “’Think’ the reason he never ‘understands’ anything you tell him is ‘because’ he has no sense of ‘reason’ and must have been dropped on his head when he was a child.” That isn’t going to diffuse anything. In fact, you’re more likely to achieve the opposite and spark an atomic-level explosion.
Using insults and condescending language rarely wins an argument.
Neither does badgering your partner into talking. You know what I mean: “What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” “C’mon, what’s wrong?” “Just forget it.” “C’mon, talk to me.” “I don’t want to talk about it.” “Fine.” Silence. Of course, that’s when you really kick in. “I have ways of making you talk,” you glare.
Needing to always be right is another useless tactic. If you’re one of these, ask yourself what’s really more important: being right or being happy and getting along with each other?
Also popular and less than productive is the old sweeping blame game. If any phrases that begin with “you always,” “you never,” or “why are you such an utter and complete dumbass” are about to come out of your mouth, bite your tongue and count to ten. Then try rephrasing your comments in ways that express how you feel rather than what what’s wrong with your partner. “I’m feeling frustrated…,” “I’m trying to understand…,” you get the picture.
Of course, despite your best efforts, sometimes a fight escalates before you both even know what hit you and you suddenly find yourselves overwhelmed by if-you-say-another-word-my-head-is-going-to-explode frustration. If this happens, the best and only solution is to walk away, calmly, (that means no running after him out the door in your underwear) and regroup.
You can both cool off and deal with whatever was there in the first place — if it really was anything — later. More often than not, stress, exhaustion, or too much Bailey’s-laced coffee turns up as the underlying culprit.
Happy Holidays. Hope you survive!
– Josey Vogels is a sex and relationship columnist and author of five books on the subjects. For more info, visit www.joseyvogels.com.