Happy, functional couples fight – it’s part of the deal (and make-up sex is the happy ending). But when unhappy couples brawl, it can be like War of the Roses. And nothing brings a troubled relationship down faster.
“A lot of couples’ therapy is helping people fight in a nicer way,” Johnson says.
Happy couples who feel secure with one another probably won’t get as mean as those who aren’t feeling love from their partner.
“They can find a way to reach for each other” and make “safe, emotional connections,” Johnson says.
Her No. 1 fighting rule: Don’t turn your partner into the enemy. “Try to listen to your own needs and fears that are coming up in these fights,” she says. It’ll help you feel secure with each other, even in the midst of battle.
Another difference: Even in the midst of a fight, healthy couples feel safe, they can “call” for their partner and their partner will come, Johnson says.
6. Examine your definition of trust.
Traditionally, a relationship based on trust meant, “I trust you to be faithful and keep your agreements,” Richo says.
But in modern times, your definition of trust needs to also create room for the inevitabilities of life and love, and how you handle them, he says, such as:
“I trust myself to appreciate that you will keep your agreements and work things out with me.”
“I trust myself to receive that with appreciation, and I also trust myself to handle the times when you don’t come through, when you don’t keep agreements.”
“And in those times, I trust myself to try to work it out and not to retaliate.”
People aren’t perfect, and they’re not always as loving and loyal as they intend to be or you want them to be.
Even though “you’re totally open to your partner’s trustworthiness, the trust is in myself,” Richo says. “If and when something happens to contradict that, I’m not going to fall apart.”
7. Get to the real heart of the problem.
You know those arguments where your partner complains about the dirty dishes in the sink and you end up defending yourself or shutting down?
The real problem is deeper, Johnson says.
“This isn’t about whether to build a new cottage,” Johnson says. “This is about the fact that I’m scared if we build a new cottage, you’ll spend a lot of time up there and withdraw from me and I’ll feel lonely.”
Getting to the truth of feelings driving the fight – and sharing those truths – is key to a happy love life.
Likewise, recognizing the wounds that make you react impulsively is the first step in healing them, Johnson says. Those raw spot forms when your attachment needs aren’t met and you feel emotionally deserted.