Tired of having the same fight with your partner? How to finally get over it

It’s more or less inevitable that certain arguments will come up again and again in a long-term relationship. These are the arguments that are so frequent you know the script before it even happens.

Your partner could be chronically late, for example, or you could be overly critical of his or her cooking. But the answer to these issues isn’t a new alarm clock or fresher tomatoes. Rather, there are underlying problems here, and those are the ones that need to be addressed if you’re ever going to put this familiar — and tedious, and depressing, and draining — fight behind you.

Here are several strategies to move on from this kind of argument, helping you to end that ugly conflict once and for all rather than being mired in an unproductive back-and-forth.

Recognize the vicious cycle

In order to hit the bull’s eye, you must first see the target. In the context of relationship conflict, that means identifying the offending argument and recognizing it for the problem that it is.

In addition to recognizing the argument — “my partner is always late” — think also about the emotions that make the issue so fraught.

Try to consider both your partner’s side as well as your own, as there’s likely gray area in terms of the roles each of you has in creating the problem (more on that below).

Embrace the gray area

In the proverbial heat of the moment, the brain naturally moves into a different mode, one where right and wrong — and winning or losing — are the only two possibilities.

Of course, life isn’t like that. Life is complex and full of nuance. In most (if not all) cases, there’s a little bit of right and a little bit of wrong on both sides. Remembering that reality during the argument can help guide your actions toward a more productive outcome.

To help you remember this and, more importantly, act on it, try to take a breather if you sense the old familiar argument ramping up. (It can be harder to get your partner to buy to take a break like this, but this exercise obviously works better if both of you can do it together.)

Then, embrace the proverbial gray area by thinking of several potential solutions to the argument. What could your partner — or you — do to neutralize the bad feelings or create a better situation? Assuming partners care enough about each other to want a resolution, it should be possible to find a compromise. All it takes is a little rationality and a willingness to listen and, of course, to stick with the resolution after it’s reached.

Root out the real problem

The underlying emotional issue is the real driver of the drama. Take the time to understand these triggering emotions within yourself. You and your own emotions are the best place to start, as you can’t ultimately control the actions or issues of others.

This recognition might keep you from becoming defensive, which can cause you to shut down, which in turn can take the problem from an argument to a fight or an unproductive stalemate. (If your partner insists on making things personal, try not to take the bait, while pointing out that behavior in as non-confrontational a way as possible.)

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Once you understand your own underlying triggers, find a way to express these triggers to your partner. Hopefully, your partner is willing to listen. If they are, this can help break the cycle.

As an example, instead of “I hate it when you’re late,” say “your lateness makes me feel like I can’t trust you, which makes me feel unsafe or unloved in the relationship.”

This may seem vulnerable, but you may be surprised at what it can get you in return. It breaks down the walls of defensiveness and gets your partner thinking in the same way. If you can both avoid accusing the other or feeling defensive, understanding where the other is coming from can be a huge help in finding common ground.

There is a substantial amount of trial and error associated with ending these arguments, rooting out the problems and putting the argument behind you. But if you’re both invested in the relationship, you’ll find it’s worth the effort. Chasing your tails with endless arguing can lead to heartache and wasted time and energy. If you’re both willing to listen, adjust your approach, and keep your word over time, the relationship will be that much stronger for it.

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