Boxing GlovesBy Jennifer Berg
The turkey? Burning. Parents? Nagging. Every relationship is filled with arguments and almost-arguments -- but never more so than during the holidays. Here's a guide to how to pick your battles with your beloved:
Is It Worth It?
"There's value in working through conflict as a couple." says Rachel Kleinman, an expert partner at YourTango. "There is also value in asserting your needs and desires in a relationship." Just be careful of how often, and how forcefully, you make those needs known.
"The most successful relationships are ones where the parties have developed effective strategies for resolving conflict, yet avoid it as much as possible," Kleinman says. "High-conflict couples rarely last. So, unless something is really important to you -- that is, unless it speaks to your core values or your identity -- consider letting it slide."
Think About What's Really Bugging You
So you flipped out on him for loading the dishwasher incorrectly. Chances are, clean cereal bowls don't mean that much to you. "We humans tend to smuggle our unexpressed feelings about past events into current ones," Relationship coach Annie Lalla says. "Watch for smuggles in yourself. When we battle over one thing that isn't the real pain point, our partners can't connect our feelings to the actual painful behavior. Discuss what's actually hurting you, not a politically correct cover story."
Pardon Minor Offenses
Not digging his loud, off-key rendition of "Gangham Style?" Take a deep breath before launching into a Simon Cowell-style critique. "Recognize the difference between being annoying and being unkind," says Jodi Lipper, co-author of How to Love Like a Hot Chick. "The person you're dating is absolutely going to bug you sometimes. Guess what? You're annoying sometimes, too. That is very different from being unkind, thoughtless, or even cruel." So don't sweat the small stuff, and "save the confrontations for the things that truly hurt."
Take the High Road
Before you go ahead and go there, ask yourself what you're really going to get out of an argument. "If you know that you're just going to waste an entire night screaming at each other, know that you have the power to skip this unpleasantness entirely." Lipper says. "It's actually a very powerful feeling to know you can consciously choose a pleasant evening over a fight, so go ahead and try rewarding yourself for your partner's dumb behavior by not fighting about it."
Let Go of Expectations
Sometimes you just need to be heard. When that's how you feel, by all means, speak up. But then (and this is the hard part), remember to sit back and really listen. You might want to scream until the other person bows and says exactly what you want them to say but do they really mean it? Is anything resolved? One-sided arguments never benefit anybody.
"When we say something expecting a particular response from someone else, things get very messy," says Amy Johnson PhD, a psychologist and relationship coach. "But when you speak your mind with no agenda, you get to simply voice how you feel and allow the other person to be who they are."
To read the other ten habits, click here!
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