5 Ways to Fight Better with Your Partner

for couples Oct 18, 2023

By Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
PACT Founder

The topic of your disagreement is not as important as how you handle the disagreement. Most issues boil down to errors in memory, perception, and communication. You can solve many of these mistakes by doing the following:

1. Make eye contact. If you are able to check in with each other’s eyes, you’ll be able to catch errors quicker and emotionally regulate one another. Drop all distractions when you have a disagreement and go face-to-face.

If you’re unable to do this when a disagreement pops up, address the issue but agree to return to the issue at a time when you can.

2. Slow down. It’s common for partners to go too fast when they get into a fight – to the point where they are speaking faster than they can think. Avoid making errors by taking a breath and consciously slowing down as you speak.

3. Be brief. Make a point and then allow your partner to make a point. You should have a nice back-and-forth. The longer you hold the stage, the more you risk riling your partner up and losing your audience.

4. Limit the discussion to one topic. Communication is difficult enough on a good day. When you’re emotionally aroused, it becomes extraordinarily difficult to avoid errors. Don’t make it harder by adding multiple topics into the mix in a fight. Focus on the first issue that pops up.

5. Set a time limit between 5-15 minutes tops. You have limited mental and emotional resources to work with. The longer you fight, the more likely you will leave your “window of tolerance.” When this happens, your threat responses will be triggered, making it impossible to engage in conversation effectively.

Above all, stay curious and work on the problem, not each other. Your version of reality is just as flawed as your partner’s. Remain flexible, friendly, humble, and open to being wrong.


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