My Partner and I Keep Fighting About Wedding Plans—What Do We Do?
Is pulling out all of your hair starting to sound like a better option than making one more wedding-related decision with your partner? Does it seem like every time you talk about the wedding at all it comes to raised voices? Or are all your fights with your partner circling around the same topic that you can't seem to resolve? If so, we've been there, and we're here to say it's fine. It doesn't signal a terrible marriage omen, but it does mean you have to work on your communication skills.
It may seem weird, but a compromise or a solution isn't always the best end to a fight between partners. Understanding each other's points of view should be the goal, even if it is difficult. Especially when you feel so passionate about your own side of the story, being sympathetic to someone else's perspective takes considerable restraint and skill. It's definitely something to work on. Putting effort into your communication skills means that your fighting actually might bring you closer together instead of alienating each other.
Not convinced? Take a look at what all the relationship experts, therapists and counselors told us to do when it seems like bickering is the only thing you and your partner do. Then take it a step further and download Lasting—a science-based app backed by The Knot dedicated to improving the health of your (future) marriage or relationship. The app smartly gets to know your relationship and then builds a program just for you and your significant other.
Want to stop fighting? Start listening.
And we don't just mean listen to your partner. Listen to yourself. What are you saying? Is it offensive? Degrading? Are you a broken record? "If you've repeated your point of view more than three times, you're already being unproductive and it's going to damage your relationship," says Xavier Amador, clinical psychologist and founder of the LEAP Institute. "If it has escalated to the point where you're arguing about the same things over and over again, it's time to surrender. Surrender repeating your point of view." You're clearly not hearing each other at this point, Amador says. Take a step back and tell your partner that you think you've made your point, but you want to make sure you understand their side of the story. When they've told you how they feel, repeat their sentiments in your own words. When you do this, Amador says, you will see your partner visibly relax. They'll feel heard, and they might even feel like you agree. Don't rush to give your opinion again afterward—they already know it. The most important thing, Amador says, is you come out of your discussion feeling heard and respected. Once you both feel that way, you can come to a solution that hopefully makes everyone comfortable.
Know that you can't "win" a fight.
Would you rather be right or happy? That's the question most of our experts asked us when we talked about the idea of "winning" a fight. Getting in the mind-set that you have to win and be right isn't productive for the big-picture of your relationship. When you're focused on who wins, one person has to lose, says Dale Atkins, PhD, psychologist, couples adviser and author of Wedding Sanity Savers. "No one likes to lose. What happens in that setup is instead of a solution, each person is preparing their strategy, thinking of their next point. It's not in the spirit of really trying to connect with the heart of your partner and understand what they're really talking about."
When you're fighting about something mundane, oftentimes you're really fighting about something bigger.
When we fight, the things we fight about are representations of how we feel. The best example is money. When you argue about money, you're really fighting about power, self-worth, love and affection. It's a metaphor. "If money was just money—a tool to accomplish certain things in life—then you could have rational discussions about it and you could make rational decisions about it. But if you believe it represents love, power, control, freedom or security, then you're not really fighting about money. You're fighting about what it represents," says Olivia Mellan, couple's therapist and author of Money Harmony. "It becomes very emotionally loaded and you can't make rational decisions."
There's a right time and place to fight.
It doesn't hurt to be more thoughtful about the time and place you choose to have an argument. This is your life, and this is your relationship. Those are two very important things that deserve time and attention and to be nurtured and treated with respect. If you have a disagreement about something with your partner, schedule a time when you both are free, and prepare your thoughts on the matter beforehand. "You wouldn't go into a meeting unprepared," Atkins says. "So, why would you risk having an important conversation with the person you love unprepared, or on edge?" Don't have a conversation like this in bed, and if possible, don't even have it in your home, Atkins adds. Take it to a neutral space—maybe a walk in the neighborhood, or in nature. "You need to breathe and allow yourself to be calm and centered. You're going to need access to the problem-solving area of your brain if you're going to work through something," she says.
Fights aren't necessarily a bad thing.
"Two people are going to have different opinions and perspectives on many things, if they're being honest with each other. A fight is an opportunity to respectfully share different points of view," says Laurie Puhn, Harvard lawyer, couples mediator and author of Fight Less, Love More. "Happy couples fight—they just end a fight with an executable solution like, 'I'll text you before I get on the train to come home so you know when to meet me at the restaurant next time.' A bad fight ends vaguely, like, 'Next time, be less of a jerk.'"
If you know you've done something wrong, don't get defensive. Just listen.
When we feel attacked or feel a fight coming on, our "animal instincts" come out, Amador says. Our adrenaline starts flowing and we almost ignore our rational thought so we can mount a defense. If you know you've done something wrong, this is the time to ignore those instincts and just quietly listen to your partner's feelings on the matter. Then apologize. Tell your partner you're sorry you hurt them (not you're sorry they were hurt, Atkins says—that's completely different).
Biggest takeaway? Be respectful of your partner.
Disagreements are inevitable in relationships, says Howard Markman, professor of psychology and codirector of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. The good thing about arguing, though, is that the solution is simple: just be respectful of your partner. Listen, repeat back what you've heard so you're showing you understand, and phrase your point of view in a way that doesn't offend or attack your fiancé. Do that, and you'll be on the road to productive fighting and your fights could actually bring you closer as a couple.