1) Recognize what is really going on under a fight.
Under all the angry words, the cursing and the insults is pain - for BOTH of you. After the fight is over (its nearly impossible to do during a fight), be open to listening to each other in order to learn about the TWO hurts that happened during the fight. Both people got hurt in the fight. When both partners care about both hurts, and seek to soothe them, the bond can be healed.
2) Beware of the Monster Mindset
It's human nature to demonize the person who is causing your pain. You think:
-- He (or his behavior) is the problem, I am the victim.
-- I have to stop him from…… spending, controlling me, abandoning me, withholding sex, clinging, ignoring me……
And he thinks the same way about you!
When each person thinks about the fight in those one-way terms, it guides them to act in fight-escalating ways. You try to "fix" your "problem partner" or try to be proven right, which keeps the fight going. Instead, see that underneath the "monster" is a person you did once love who is in pain and expressing it in a way that is far from optimal. So, suspend your need to win, stop trying to fix the other, be open see the other person's perspective. When you do, they look a lot more like a person, not a monster.
3) Petty fights are sometimes not so petty.
We all know that fights can explode from very small triggers: a difference of opinion (Why do you like such dumb movies?) or a frustration with one of your partner's habits (Did you lose your keys again?!?) Once we get triggered to be in fight mode, we start saying things that are even more hurtful to the other person and the pain piles up for both partners as the fight continues. So the trigger for a fight may seem petty, but it often feels bigger because we interpret those petty things as disrespect and uncaring. If you and your partner have fought about something seemingly petty, find a quiet moment later to ask your partner - what was important for you in that fight? Why does something seemingly petty like how you load the dishwasher matter? Perhaps it's because it feels like a way your partner has a voice in the relationship. Find respect for the needs and triggers under a so-called "petty" fight.
4) Solve misunderstandings by doing what DOESN'T come naturally.
Even between loving couples, there will always be misunderstandings. When those misses happen, its human nature to complain or blame the other partner for hurting you. The blamed partner feels unfairly accused and defends his or herself. The defensiveness makes the first partner feels unheard and more hurt, so there's more complaining and defending - and there it is - a fight. To stop it, try reversing what you are first likely to say: (Stopping a misunderstanding fight)
5) Stop the escalating by letting your partner's bomb land
Your partner says something in a fight and it hurts. How do you respond to the hurt? When in a fight, the most common response to hurt is to hurl something back - a criticism, a complaint, or an insult. It's human nature, but it keeps the fight going. Instead of retaliating, try expressing the hurt you feel in a soft way - "Ow…that hurt". Your partner is expecting you to throw a bomb back, but when you instead show you are wounded from his or her bomb, it can sometimes dislodge the fight. If it doesn't immediately stop your partner in his or her tracks, at least you have paused the escalating from your side.
6) "The only winning move is not to play"
Many fights end in a stalemate where no one is willing to admit they are wrong. You see the situation one way, and your partner, amazingly, sees it a completely different way. When your partner says how they see it, you urgently feel you need to correct her. Your urgent correcting usually leads her to urgently want to correct you back, and the fight is off and running. The more you insist that she is wrong, the more forcefully she will dig in to prove that he is right and you are wrong. And so on…and so on….in an endless cycle.
Fights that end up in this stalemate cannot be won, and it's best to agree to pause talking about the WHAT and instead talk about the WHY of this fight. Why does the point you are making matter so much to each of you? What is the value or belief or feeling that lies underneath your strong point of view? In the WHY of what you each value, you may find a third path out of the fight.
7) See the cycle to get out of it.
So many fights between couples follow a circular pattern. Here Julie wants to give Nigel advice about job seeking because she's worried he isn't doing enough. Nigel feels judged, criticized and nagged so he tunes Julie out and doesn't follow all her "controlling commands". Feeling ignored, Julie gets even more aggravated and nervous as she sees Nigel being even more passive. The more she nags, the more he tunes out, but the more he tunes out, the more she nags. Both the nagging and the tuning out keep the fight going. Seeing that the fight is a cycle gives you an opening to solve it.
8) Break free from the cycle - TOGETHER
The first step in getting out of a circular fight is to step back and acknowledge together the Big Picture of the fight.
That means that while you don't intend to, BOTH of you are contributing to the fight in the way that you are judging, labeling and reacting to each other. Once you see the pattern of the fight, it becomes easier for you each to stop blaming each other. Instead, you begin to see how you are each trying stop your own pain, and by doing so you are inadvertently causing each other's pain. Once you see the cycle, The Big Picture of your fight, you can claim responsibility for your half. And you can start to see your partner as a fellow sufferer in a cycle that is hurting you both. When you see each other's pain a bit better, you can empathize with it, and agree to work together to fight the cycles instead of each other.
For more ways to end these fight cycles about money, sex and household responsibilities, check out Stop the Fight! An Illustrated Guide for Couples