That, “Uh oh—a fight is coming” sensation is the worst. You’re in the middle of enjoying what was meant to be a fun and relaxing date night with your significant other but you already know, based on the way his face is contracting and his voice is changing, that a fight is coming. It’s like a tsunami that’s still far away, but at this point, is unstoppable. Once it gets here, it’s going to destroy any chance the two of you had at having fun or getting along for the next 12 to 48 hours. That’s an intense feeling and a feeling some people will do anything to get away from. Most of our fighting tactics have nothing to do with solving the issue at hand but rather running away from it, avoiding it, trying to push it aside or even trying to just “win” (regardless of what’s best for the couple). Here are the most toxic fighting techniques.
If your partner does something wrong, don’t pull up the mental list you’ve kept of every single time he has made that same mistake. That’s very unfair. That is like bringing five guns to a knife fight. Your partner should only have to apologize for or handle the issue you’re dealing with on that day. If you bring up old mistakes, he’ll wonder how often you’re secretly angry and don’t say anything so you can use it as ammunition later.
“You bring this up today?”
If your partner has something that’s really been bothering him and he has the courage to bring it up, do not become angry at him because it’s “not a good time.” Yes, you may have had a particularly stressful day but guess what? There is no good time for a fight. Having a fight on a fun day sucks too because that ruins the fun day! Telling your partner that the mere fact he is having feelings is insensitive to your schedule is, actually, a bit emotionally abusive.
Denying the fight
“Let’s not talk about this,” “I don’t want to do this now” and other comments like that are not healthy. You can try, all you want, to reschedule this fight so you can enjoy date night. You can try to talk about the weather and the cute décor at the restaurant instead of having the fight. But the truth is, you are now having this fight—whether or not you’re having it out loud. The two of you won’t be happy again until you’ve gotten through the fight, so stop denying it.
Disappearing to a bar, a friend’s house or the guest room until your partner has “calmed down” or until your partner is “done being angry” isn’t fair. Both people need to participate in the fight. Just because you don’t think your partner has a right to be upset doesn’t change the fact that he is upset. You wouldn’t like it if he walked out on you when you were upset, leaving you to “work things out on your own.”
Having a drink may seem like a good idea when you sense a fight coming on, but it’s not. While alcohol may calm your nerves sometimes, it tends to only elevate pre-existing emotions. So if you are a little irritated when you have a drink, you’ll be volatile by the end of your second drink.
Accelerating the insult
Let your partner give you the critique he is giving you now and just that critique. Do not play the martyr by exaggerating or accelerating what he’s saying. In other words, if your partner tells you that you are being a bit selfish, don’t jump in with, “You’re right. I’m a terrible person. I’m the worst. You should just date somebody else! I’m evil!” Your partner didn’t say those things and it isn’t fair of you to imply he did.
If you’re upset about something, you owe it to your partner to mention it. It isn’t fair to him for you to withhold your anger now so that you can let it out in small increments later—otherwise known as passive aggression. Rather than make subtle, undermining remarks about your partner during a double date, tell him what’s wrong, in private. That’s a part of being an adult.
Apologizing, just to end the fight
Don’t apologize if you’re not really sorry or if you don’t understand what you did wrong. Doing that is the same as putting off this fight for another time. If you do not fully recognize the problem and come up with a solution, this same fight will come up again. But then the fight will be worse because your partner can say, “We already talked about this!’
Bringing in other’s opinions
It doesn’t matter what your mother or best friend or hairdresser has to say on the matter. Your partner doesn’t need or want to know their opinions on his mistakes. It’s unfair of you to bring in some jury that he didn’t even know was judging him.
Comparing your partner to someone else, whether that’s an ex, your friend’s boyfriend, or some guy your partner thinks you have a crush on, is nasty, childish and unfair. It’s also very hard to take back and could propel a hundred more fights. Just don’t do it.
Maybe you have a party or vacation or something fun on the horizon, and now your partner is starting a fight. Don’t tell him that now he’s ruining the party/vacation/fun thing. Don’t say things like, “Maybe we should just cancel our trip because we’ll obviously just be fighting the whole time.” That puts far too much pressure on the argument at hand. That adds a sense of “we have to rush this fight or else we don’t get to have fun later.” Take things one minute at a time
Projecting/turning around the blame
Admitting you messed up is uncomfortable and painful. It’s so uncomfortable that you may avoid doing so and, instead, start digging up things your partner has done wrong. So, if your partner is accusing you of doing something wrong (and he is correct), rather than apologize, you may start listing off the times he did a similar thing. Do we really have to remind you that two wrong’s don’t make a right?
Yelling or swearing
Yelling and swearing are other actions that are very hard to take back and can change the dynamic of your relationship forever. When you yell or swear at your partner, it can be very hard for him to ever feel safe with you again. Yelling and swearing show that you do not make an effort to control or filter your anger.
Refusing to allow a break
If your partner says he just needs a half hour to walk around the block, let him do it. This is not the same as disappearing or avoiding. This is, in fact, a responsible move—a move that allows your partner to get a handle on his anger and organize his thoughts. Taking a half hour break can, in the long run, move this fight along faster.
Maybe we should break up then
This is another version of “Let’s just cancel the vacation” or “You’re right; I’m evil.” It isn’t fair for your partner to feel that any time he wants to bring up an issue or express his feelings, he runs the risk of losing this relationship entirely. Threatening to end things all because your partner starts an argument is a version of blackmail.