Toning Down Your Fights

Here we are again in March, which has the reputation of coming in like a lion, out like a lamb.

Do these changes in the tone of the weather mirror the shifting atmosphere of your relationships?


Everyone has fights sometimes but have you been wondering how you can switch your relationship squabbles from turbulent to sunny in the same way March does? Whether you’re dealing with a significant other, your child, parent, in-law, friend or colleague at work, here are some tips for toning down the rhetoric and creating your own calm in the storm:

Commit to working toward change. Decide to let go of old hurt feelings and instead focus on the present and what you can do to transform it. When you find yourselves fighting the same battles again and again, determine to finally resolve them or agree to put them away with the understanding that you’ll accept your differences of opinion.

Let go of your anger. Step back and take a deep breath – several actually. Leave the conversation for a while and find a healthy outlet for your negative physical energy – go for a jog, yell in the shower, hit a pillow, call a friend. When you remove yourself and deal with your anger, you can come back to the disagreement later when you both have calmed down. For some ideas about how sandwiched boomers can develop this approach, check out a past blog post.

Listen, really listen. Develop the skill of active listening – paying attention to what your partner is saying without distracting yourself by planning a response. Ask empathic questions and work to understand his position, feelings and needs, even if you don’t agree with them. Conflict resolution techniques can work among family members as well as they do in business and international relations.

Fight fair, even as you keep your communication open and honest. Keep your messages on topic and avoid name-calling and criticisms about character traits and past actions. Focus on talking about behaviors and issues that can be modified. Let your partner know about how you react to his or her actions without putting a value judgment on them. For more tips about improved and effective communication, re-read our post about limiting your arguments.

Be willing to take some responsibility. As you acknowledge your part in the turmoil and begin to see your partner’s perspective, it’s easier to find the means to compromise and cooperate. Learn some of these practical strategies we offered to new bride Chelsea Clinton and her groom, Marc Mezvinsky, on a past blog post.

Insert some positives into the equation. Give compliments for positive behaviors you want to reinforce. Forgive your partner for mistakes made and offer an apology when you have been the one in the wrong. Shared humor can ease the strain of hostility and help forge a new sense of connection.

If your husband has been the main source of tension in your marriage, our virtual book tour with Jed Diamond about his book Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationships from the Irritable Male Syndrome can give you some additional suggestions about how you can dilute the anger and start enjoying each other again.

As you know so well, your relationship with your mother – or daughter – isn’t immune to a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows either. As a matter of fact, it’s often the closest emotional connection a woman has in her life. But close doesn’t always mean easy. When you want some more insight into how to pull back a little, click on our virtual book tour with Susan Shaffer and Linda Gordon, authors of Too Close for Comfort: Questioning the Intimacy of Today’s New Mother-Daughter Relationship.

And here on the blog we also hosted a virtual book tour with Dr. Susan Lieberman, author of The Mother-In-Law’s Manual: Proven Strategies for Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships with Married Children. So if you’re searching for more ideas about how to smooth over the friction between you and your daughter-in-law, you’ll get some helpful advice from her.

You’ll find more tools for developing successful relationships when you search our blog. Let us know what works for you – and remember spring is just a few weeks away.

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