Whether you’re arguing like crazy with your husband, stressing over a meeting with your boss, or running from a lion in the outback—your body’s reaction to the situation is exactly the same. Your body can’t differentiate a fight with your husband from a life-threatening animal attack.
It’s a primitive automatic survival response to stress: fight or flight mode. A flood of adrenaline hits your system, your heart-rate speeds up, breathing becomes more rapid, immune system gears up and your brain actually starts to malfunction. When you’re operating in this mode, you’re thinking with a survival brain instead of a reasoning brain.
We all know conflict is inevitable with our spouses. And no doubt, arguing can be exhausting—especially when you feel like you’re on a merry-go-round for the fourteenth time, and your side of the argument is still getting you nowhere! So how do you get off that spinning course and on to a path of resolution?
Laurie Puhn, author of Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship Without Blowing Up or Giving In, says the goal is to not have the same old fight you always have. The key is to stay open-minded and to actually fight your way to resolution. Easier said than done, right!?
That (like any argument) takes effort and brains. You need to think logically through each side and work towards a solution that both parties can agree on. Research presented at the American Psychosomatic Society meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia in March 2005 showed that not only is avoiding conflict a huge predictor of divorce, but it also puts women at four times the risk of heart disease. Fighting is in fact healthy—it means two people have different perspectives and that’s a good thing. “If you give in to your partner, he or she is happy, but you are in emotional turmoil,” says Puhn.
By taking the time to stop and recognize stress during a fight, you can avoid thinking on a survival-mode brain and start thinking more clearly. When you’re thinking rationally, conflict resolution can occur within minutes! Below are 4 steps, outlined by Puhn, that can help you fight more fairly and reach resolution sooner than later:
1. Sit Down. According to Puhn, sitting puts your logical mind in control. Try asking your spouse if you can sit down to talk things over. This is a great way to get both of you thinking more clearly without actually having to explain what you are trying to do.
2. Play Detective. When you play detective you don’t run the risk of making assumptions! Ask questions that will allow you deeper insight into the other person’s perspective. Try asking questions like “How does this make you feel? Did I miss something? What do you think led to this?”
3. Show You’re Listening. Take a moment to repeat the other person’s point of view word for word. “So you’re saying this happened because…” Afterwards, share your perspective and invite questions based on your point of view. Ask your husband to do the same.
4. Make An Agreement. The goal of a good fight is to make sure the same problem or disagreement doesn’t occur again. Research shows that if you try to come up with a solution to the problem at hand, you are more likely to comply with it. At the end of a good fight that has a solution figured out, you’ll feel a great sense of relief.
What do you and your husband argue about most often? Have any tips to add to the list? Please do!