How to control what you say in a fight with your partner

Here's why saying hurtful things can make the discussion unproductive.

Harper's Bazaar India

Fights with your partner are inevitable but they have their pros and cons. Sure, the entire time that you are fighting may seem like a waste of precious moments you could have spent being happy together, but they can also help you understand each other better and feel a lot closer after you’ve made up. However, whether it is a minor disagreement or a full-blown argument, fights can be had in a healthy manner and respectfully.

In an interview from a while ago that resurfaced recently, Salma Hayek shared the secret behind her long and successful marriage. She revealed that they have a good relationship because whenever they fight, they look for a solution without playing the blame game. She had also mentioned that in more than a decade of being together, her husband never said anything nasty when they fought. These little things make a lot of difference.

You may share great compatibility but as two individuals with independent thought processes, you will disagree on several things. Some of your fights may seem trivial after you’ve cooled down while some may take some time to bounce back from. It’s perfectly normal to have conflicts with your partner but the way each one behaves during these is what determines the future of your relationship.

If you tend to get too blunt during a fight, here’s how you can control what you say to your partner, who doesn’t deserve to be burnt by your words.

Be mindful of your emotional state

When I was younger, I used to give impulsive, emotionally-charged reactions in conflicts with my partner, but I realised it was an unhealthy way of responding to situations. Now, I assess the situation and speak while maintaining composure. When you’re emotionally stimulated, it’s hard to focus on what your partner is saying or see the larger picture. If you feel your mental state is influencing your responses, start practising taking a minute to think before you speak. You may even excuse yourself from the argument and return to the discussion when you can offer a neutral stance.

Listen actively

Active listening is another crucial aspect of managing communication during a conflict. Instead of coming to a discussion with the sole intention of putting your point across, focus on what your partner has to say. This will help you understand their perspective and empathise with them. For your partner to feel heard, it's important to avoid interrupting or talking over them and use non-judgmental language. Never use phrases such as “you always” or “you never”.

Don’t bring up the past

Remember, when you close a fight and resolve your issues, make sure you do it wholeheartedly. Don’t act like it is okay if it’s not. Don’t collect ammunition to use in a future fight. It is essential to avoid using hurtful language or bringing up past mistakes during a conflict with your partner. The conversation should solely focus on the present issue, and whatever digresses you from the course of your discussion should be avoided.

Apologise if you say something hurtful

It’s important to acknowledge your share of mistakes, even if you feel a huge chunk is theirs. If you said something you shouldn’t have, genuinely apologise for it. Let them know you understand the impact your words had on them and you feel sorry for causing them pain. Admitting when one is wrong can help rebuild trust and strengthen the relationship.

Take a cool-off break

If you feel the conversation is not going anywhere because both of you are too emotionally charged, take a break to cool down. Revisit the issue at a later time when both of you feel calmer and are more open to discussion.