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Let's Talk Resolving Conflict

Fight Nice

It’s inevitable: you’re in a relationship with another human being, you fight. You can’t avoid it, and in fact, if you’re in a relationship where everything is “perfect” and you never fight and life is like a fairy tale…it’s either the first week, or you’re not letting your “real” you show through.

I’m not cynical, and I believe in love. I just also believe that if two people have a committed, close relationship, they are occasionally going to butt heads – and that fighting is actually a healthy, normal part of a relationship.

It’s how you fight that matters, and it’s very easy to get into unhealthy patterns.

For everyone else, unhealthy patterns include doing things like giving the silent treatment, dredging up everything that has ever happened in the relationship over the last several years, or playing the passive-aggressive game. For fighting to be good for a relationship, it has to be healthy fighting.

You’re going to disagree with your partner, and you may even get angry and yell at each other. What you have to be able to do is stay focused on the issue you’re fighting about. Your argument should not become a personal attack. In fact, you really shouldn’t say anything about your partner. Instead of saying, “You always do this,” say, “This is important to me and I feel like it’s not a priority.”

If you’re the kind of person who needs time before you can discuss things rationally, that’s fair … but the silent treatment is not. You supposedly care for this person, so punishing them by not speaking when you’re angry isn’t a good way to handle your anger or frustration. Instead, explain it: “I really want to talk to you about this, but I have to have some time first to deal with my emotions and clear my head. I promise we can talk about it in a couple hours.”

No matter how angry you get, it’s really not fair to dredge up the past, especially if you’ve already gone there, hashed it out, and put it away. Bringing stuff up from the past is a relationship killer. Never be purposefully hurtful or derogatory.

When you’re done being angry, make up. Say sorry. You don’t have to be wrong to be sorry. You can be sorry because you feel bad that you fought. Compromise and listen. Don’t go to bed angry – and never fight in your bedroom. If you think you’re too angry to control what you’re going to say, take time to cool off first. Things said in the heat of the moment often lead to big regrets.

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Let's Talk Love

Opposites Attract but Similarities Last

We’ve all heard the line about opposites attracting, and we all know couples who are as different from each other as night and day. You know the scenario – she’s a librarian, he’s a Harley-riding tattoo artist; he likes to “veg” in front of the TV every night, she likes to go dancing three nights a week; she’s well-educated, he’s a high-school dropout.

While passion may fuel short-term romance between polar opposites, if you’re looking for a life mate, you’ll have more success with someone whose lifestyle and aspirations more closely match your own. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve seen happy couples that you would never have guessed would be happy together who seem like total opposites, but their differences are typically surface differences: he’s tall, she’s short.  Other differences can work, but it takes work, patience, and understanding – particularly if you’re talking major cultural or religious differences.

There is something, though, about having very similar core values that makes a relationship successful and strong. Couples who tend to have the most long-term success share the same set of core values. If they are not of the same religion, they have the same religious or spiritual core that includes a healthy respect for others’ philosophies and a willingness to allow their children to be raised with both. Long-term success is also more easily sustained when the two people have a similar level of intelligence or education. That doesn’t mean PhDs should only date PhDs…it means that there should be an intellectual connection in which both parties feel fairly equal.

Other areas where similar core values seem to be important are physical activity level, finances, and the desire for children. Couples are more successful if both of them like to get out and go dancing three times a week than if half of the couple wants to go while the other half would prefer to watch TV every night. A shared passion for some activity (rock climbing, charity work) can also bind people together more closely. While two people don’t have to come from the same financial background to have a successful relationship, their attitude about money, saving and spending, and earning habits should be similar. Kids – or not wanting them – can be a major deal breaker. There is no right or wrong, but if you’re not both on the same page about wanting to raise a family, you will most likely face some major struggles.

Opposites attract … it’s why the “good” girl always wants the “bad” boy in every 80’s movie ever made. For lasting and fulfilling love, try to find someone with whom you have more in common than a passionate spark that will fizzle fast.