Couples Advice: How to Avoid the Worst Fights

3. The Mudslinging Fight

Just. Don’t. Do it. This fight is beyond immature, and it can only lead to a world of misery and regret. If “one partner delivers insults about the other partner’s looks, weight or intelligence because they are angry,” says couples specialist Karen Greenhouse, beware: This type of insult “never goes away.” Even if you’re tempted to spit such venom, take a deep breath and hit the pause button on yourself. “Words spoken in a fight that tear at the core of another person’s body are never forgotten,” says Greenhouse. “This is a boundary violation every couple needs to stay away from.”

How To Avoid It

If an gibe slips out, it’s best to catch it immediately, apologize and explain that whatever you said was out of anger and not based in truth. But be careful — some things can’t be unsaid, and too many of these types of situations will lead to irreversible damage. When someone doesn’t feel heard and validated, an argument is likely on the horizon, says relationship trainer Daniel Amis. Next can come “name-calling, uncaring or negative behavior and body language, and [someone] saying something they’ll later regret,” Amis says. Remember, he says, “words have power. And these words can linger into the relationship much longer than one anticipates, regardless if there was an apology or not.”

Communication is key here, which should be a surprise to exactly no one, as it’s one of the most vital components of every relationship, romantic or otherwise. “To avoid this type of communication breakdown,” says Amis, “it’s important for a couple to have an open line of communication and listen to what their partner wants — and what they generally say or voice a complaint about.”

To avoid voicing insults in the first place, commit yourself to not dissing your partner in anger. “If an argument happens at some point, the couple should fight fair (which means no name-calling or badmouthing, or minimizing the other person’s feelings), and they should show … respect by not interrupting their partner and allowing them the time to speak,” Amis says. Get in and out of an argument as quickly as possible, he adds. “Resolving things quickly and efficiently is the key,” he says.

4. The Fight About Your Partner’s Family

“As we all know, it’s all right to talk about our own parents, but when our partner calls them names to our face and insults [them], even if we believe it’s true, it’s a wound in the coupleship that never goes away,” says Greenhouse. “Why? Because our partner has trespassed a sacred boundary called, ‘Don’t ever insult my parents.'” Yes, being in a couple means sharing one’s opinion, but there are some things best left unsaid. “Same goes for when a partner insults another partner’s children from a previous marriage,” Greenhouse says. “This is a boundary violation between couples that they need to learn to stay away from.”

How To Avoid It:

“It is difficult to understand the complexities of another family,” says Ruth Nemzoff, author of Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family. “These relationships have a long complex history.” So let your mother-in-law be your mother-in-law, and stay out of it — just as you’d hope your partner would do for you. Otherwise, “you risk future support in crises,” Nemzoff says. “View your in-law family as a culture unto itself: different, but not necessarily bad.” And remain open-minded. “Approach with curiosity and take your cues from your spouse,” she advises.

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Couples Advice: How to Avoid the Worst Fights

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