“You never help me!” she says. “That’s because I can never do anything right!” her partner responds. Sound familiar? Most couples fall into bickering at some point, despite best intentions.
Interestingly, research shows that bickering is certainly better than ignoring problems, which can foster resentment. Conflict can lead to resolving underlying issues, and emotional responses in an argument show that your partner is invested in the relationship.
Although productive conflict can be good, daily bickering may start to cause stress on you and your relationship. Here are five tips that can help you get at the root of the issue, cut the daily drama, and improve your friendship.
Remember when you first started dating, and you had so much fun together? Feelings of friendship and acceptance make it easier to overlook annoyances.
Think about what helped you connect initially, and reignite that passion. Or, try something totally new. For example, take an online art class, make a gourmet dinner together, or plan a sensual evening. You’re less likely to argue if you actually enjoy and like each other.
Think Before Complaining
I can’t believe he wasted money on takeout again.
Is she actually irritated that I did something nice?
It’s normal to have these thoughts of annoyance run through your head. There’s a lot of negotiation and misunderstandings that happen in relationships.
Before you respond out loud, ask yourself if it’s a big deal at this moment. Maybe it is, because it relates to a broader issue. Or maybe it’s more important to enjoy dinner together, and you can revisit the budget or misunderstanding later.
Ask Yourself What’s Actually Wrong
Bickering can be a symptom of an underlying disconnection or hurt feelings. Is it really about your partner getting home late from work? Or is it about feeling like you haven’t had much time to talk or feel intimate lately?
Rather than complaining about the symptom, try to get at the cause. Explain to your partner that you miss them, and want to plan a special night together. This skips the fight altogether, but gets you what you really want or need.
List the Positives
Sometimes you aren’t really upset with your partner, you’re just having a bad day. They may become the scapegoat. Once your mind starts to spiral into all the things that are wrong with the other person, stop and make a list of positives in your head.
What do love most about them? If you’re being fair, are there some nice things they’ve done lately? (If you want extra credit, compliment your partner with some of the positives you came up with.)
Consider the Other Side
This can be one of the most difficult steps to take. You have a right to be annoyed, frustrated, or hurt by your partner’s actions (or inaction). And if it’s an ongoing or major problem, there may need to be a frank conversation about it.
Either way, there’s another side to the story. There may be a stressor or trigger you don’t know about. Your partner may feel attacked or exhausted. Think about it from the other perspective, and then decide if it’s worth an argument right now.
Better yet, ask your partner how they’re feeling. Offer validation, and show that you understand what they’re saying. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed to solve the issue. Meanwhile, you’ll feel closer because you talked it out.
If you feel like you and your partner bicker too much, or it just doesn’t feel healthy, you’re not alone. A Relationship Suite therapist can help you learn to reconnect and communicate better with your partner. Contact us today to get started.
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