Do you ever feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day when it comes to arguments with your boo? Chances are, the topics that you and your significant other fight about run the gamut from money, to housework, to how you spend your free time, to intimacy. But for most couples, there’s one single thing that drives every argument: you haven’t learned how to respond differently to each other when one or both of you is triggered. In other words, the fights aren’t about the story; they’re about getting caught in an unhealthy triggering pattern.
So, what can you do to break your Groundhog Day pattern? Here’s your action plan.
Learn to de-escalate.
Learn the art of de-escalation. When you and your partner learn how to de-escalate—which means you disengage as soon as you’re in a reactive or defensive stance with each other and reengage when your hearts are open—you can talk from a vulnerable place about what’s really being triggered, which is usually some form of fear and doesn’t include blame.
Resist the urge to always be right.
While being right or “winning” an argument feels good, being happy is always better. So, if you find yourself stuck in a pattern of constantly wanting to win, stop. The most destructive way to deal with conflict is to continue to argue when you’re both triggered with the hope that you’ll convince the other person that they’re wrong and you’re right! Continuing to engage when one or both of you are triggered rarely, if ever, leads to a positive outcome. What does? Dropping your ego and focusing on a resolution that works for both of you.
Yes, there is a way to “fight right.”
Just because you get into it with your partner once in a while doesn’t mean there’s anything fundamentally wrong with your relationship. But when these fights become too frequent and nothing gets resolved, this pattern can become toxic. If you start an argument with accusations and/or your demeanor is harsh or cold, the interaction will likely end with that—or worse. Instead, start the conversation in a positive, gentle way that communicates a sincere desire for mutual understanding, respect, and a shared resolution. Some helpful ways to do this include taking responsibility for yourself and your actions, expressing your needs (not complaints!) without blaming or shaming your partner, and communicating from your personal perspective (e.g., “I feel …”) instead of accusing your partner (e.g., “you always”).