Advice | June 1, 2016 9:00 am

This Is Your Relationship on Less Stress

A five-step life preserver for couples who fight too much

To the surprise of approximately no one who’s ever dated another person for more than a week, reports surfaced this week that fighting with your partner is fairly bad for your heart.

But that doesn’t make fighting any less inevitable.

Share a roof with someone, and you’re gonna bicker from time to time. You’re gonna yell. You’re gonna make the odd un-take-back-able passive-aggressive comment.

Best have a plan for patching things up afterward. To assist, we tapped husband and wife duo Dr. David Feinstein and Donna Eden, bestselling authors and psychology and wellness experts, on where to begin.

Step One: Recognize you’re not the same person
“You and your partner are so different that the same words mean different things to each of you,” say Feinstein and Eden. “You love differently and you want to be loved differently.  It is these core differences that attracted you to one another. That’s just how nature set is up.”  

Step Two: Figure out your “Stress Styles”
Understanding how your partner (and you yourself) react to stressors can be a key to fewer fights and profoundly improve how you handle your differences. Feinstein and Eden break down stress types into four basic behaviors. When under stress, some become fixated on proving their partner wrong, while others are geared to demonstrate their own point is right. Sounds similar, but there’s a massive difference. Others will just attempt to please their partner to end the situation. And the fourth group tends to interpret their partner’s sentiments in a tone and criticism different from what was intended.

To find out your type, the two have crafted a handy little quiz here.

Step Three: Make a pact
“Many couples have found that one simple agreement makes a tremendous difference when they come into conflict: an ironclad rule for when either of you recognizes you are in a discussion that is headed toward anger/hurt or upsets you.” A rule like stopping the argument.  Just drop it and move on.

Step Four: Chill out
Once you have ceased the madness, take a moment to cool down. Go for a walk. Breathe. Whatever you need to relieve the biological stress and think clearly.

Step Five: Re-engage constructively.
Go back to Step Two and remember you and your partner’s Stress Styles. Are you wired to passionately establish that you are right, that your partner is wrong, to make your partner feel good or to show how much your partner has hurt you? Digest that. And work with it. A simpler man might call this compromise. But it’s more about establishing a language and taking responsibility for one’s own trigger patterns.

The good news is that a successful relationship will expand you and make you a better man. The bad news is that misunderstandings are virtually inevitable. Your partner is never going to do or say things the same way you would do them or say them. You can’t make your partner into a version of yourself, and if you could, you’d be bored with the results.