Learning How To Pick Your Battles In Relationships
Are you too argumentative? Here’s a good way to tell: you’re constantly in arguments! At any given moment, you probably have a conversation that needs to be finished with somebody, a text message thread blowing up your phone, a coffee date on the calendar to resolve some issues, and a little anger in your heart.
If it does feel like your life could use a break from conflict, there are two ways to get that; change the people in your life or change the way that you deal with people. If you take a look around, you’ll notice that you know plenty of people who aren’t constantly in a fight with somebody. It isn’t because there aren’t fights to be picked, it’s because they don’t pick them. But learning how to pick (or not pick) your battles is an art form. Let’s take a look at how it’s done. Here are just some questions/thoughts you can pose to yourself when you feel your blood boiling.
Will this problem come up again?
If your partner is doing something that’s driving you crazy, evaluate the circumstances and ask yourself what the chances are that this will come up again. Or, at least, what the chances are that this will happen on a regular basis.
It’s not worth the fight if it won’t happen again
If you’re annoyed because he gets too loud and rowdy when his friend from college comes to visit, but his friend only visits about once every three years, you should probably let that go. It’s only worth the conflict to bring up issues that will happen regularly. Otherwise, you’re just fighting over a problem that was just naturally going to go away on its own. Why waste your energy?
Is this something everybody does?
When something your partner does really grinds your gears, always stop and ask yourself, “Is this just something that he does, or is this something that pretty much everybody does?”
If it’s something everybody does, maybe you’re the problem
You should always be asking yourself, “What’s really the issue here? Could it just be my own issues?” If you’re upset about something your partner does that, if you think about it, everybody does, then the chances are you’re just too sensitive about that “issue.” Maybe you can’t stand it when he merely talks to other women. Well, guess what? Most of the men in the world get to speak to women who aren’t their girlfriend. Your anger is probably coming from your own insecurity, or past trauma with men. That’s on you to fix—not your partner.
Does he know how this makes me feel?
Part of growing up is learning to look beyond the action and see the intention. When you’re a child, you throw a tantrum because a kid bumps into you in the sand box, all because that didn’t feel great to you. When you’re an adult, and somebody bumps into you in the grocery store, you realize, “They didn’t mean anything by it” and let it go.
If you haven’t told your partner how something makes you feel…
If you haven’t told your partner how something makes you feel, then you don’t have much right to start nitpicking and yelling every time he does it. He might not see what’s wrong with the action on the surface, but if you tell him that it makes you feel sad/neglected/hurt, then that is something he might respond to. If he doesn’t seem to care how it makes you feel, then you really do have a problem. Fight away!
Am I sleep-deprived or hangry?
Hey, it never hurts to ask. Even grown women can become little toddlers on the inside when they need a snack or a nap. When you’re hangry, everybody looks evil, and your claws come out in response.
If you are sleep-deprived/hangry…
Girl, grab something to eat and a nap! Fighting when you’re hangry is like fighting when you’re drunk; you don’t mean any of it! If you’re stuck in traffic with your partner and food is nowhere in site, then learn to identify your own hanger symptoms and tell him, “It is not safe to talk to me right now.”
What happened last time you fought about this?
If you and your partner have fought about this exact issue before, it’s worth taking a second to ask yourself how things went down last time. Did he say he totally understood and would change, and yet here he is, making the same mistake again? Did you both just yell until you thought your heads would explode, and then just feel really sad because you love each other and don’t like to yell like that?
How things happened last time matters
If your partner seemed to understand his mistake and promised to change but hasn’t, that’s worth bringing up. But if your last fight about this just ended with you both dizzy, and more upset that you felt distant after your fight than you over the initial issue, don’t touch it. It’s tempting—I know—but don’t touch it.
Have I ever possibly done the same thing to him?
Before you’re going to point out somebody else’s mistakes you better make sure your reputation is spotless in that arena. Think about it: are you criticizing him for…say…coming home two hours late when you’d made a great dinner for him because he got caught up at some work drinks? Have you ever gotten caught up in a work thing and held him up?
If you’ve made the same mistake
If you’ve made the same mistake, then lead with that. Say that you want this to be something you both work on getting better at, because it will be good for your relationship. Don’t just point a finger at him because he’ll point one right back.
Is it indicative of a larger, underlying issue?
Some battles do need to be picked! Don’t get the wrong ideas from this list and think that no fight is worth fighting. If something your partner does is clearly a symptom of a larger issue—an issue that could mean the demise of your relationship—you need to say something.
When it’s a bigger problem
For example, if his missing date night to attend networking cocktail parties is a symptom of him generally not valuing the relationship enough, that needs to be brought up. Maybe that is just one of many ways you feel put on the back burner, or feel that he doesn’t make you enough of a priority. If you don’t identify the larger issue and bring that up, then you’ll just waste years nitpicking at surface issues that don’t fix anything. It won’t really matter if your partner comes home earlier every night if you still feel, deep down, that you’re not a priority—right? Heal the disease, not just the symptoms.
Can that issue be fixed?
One of the scary parts of asking yourself, “What am I really mad about? Because it’s not just this him-running-late-thing” is that you might find an answer you don’t want to hear. When your little, constant battles are just symptoms of a large issue in your relationship, eventually you need to address that large issue. Your partner might tell you it’s something he cannot or does not want to fix. That will hurt a lot, but it’s better to know sooner than later. And hey—he might be more than willing to work on it, and you could have a better relationship because you were brave enough to face the real issues.