I could feel my face heating up in splotches, flushing into an unflattering shade of sriracha-sauce red. My vision blurred as the water began to well up in my eyes.
I choked a little as I hiccupped and gasped, squeezing my eyes tight to try to stop the tears from falling, but they eventually won the battle and ran down my cheeks in salty triumph. Feeling embarrassed, I hastily used the back of my hand to wipe away the remaining liquid betrayal from my eyes.
“Why are you crying?”
Attempting to prevent the loud kind of sobs that often accompany an ugly-cry, I started to mumble in between shuddering breaths: “Because… I’m angry, but I don’t have the words to express why…so my emotions have nowhere to go except out my eyeballs!*” The end of the statement came out more like a wail than intelligible words.
The scenario above is a true one from many moons ago, when I was working through a disagreement with my beau at the time. Suffice to say my verbal communication skills were not very polished and needed improvement. Over time, though, I learned a lot about the importance of clear communication, honesty, integrity, kindness and generosity.
Whether you’re single or spoken for, I believe there’s still a lot of great information out there about how to be a great partner. So in the spirit of continuous improvement, I asked a few trusted individuals in long-term, healthy relationships for their best advice on how to fight fair. Here’s what they had to say:
- Watch your tone. “I try to control the tone and rate of the way that I speak – it goes a long way in deescalating a situation. Once you go there [to yelling], everything gets heightened. Instead of raising my voice, I take a pause and remember to speak in a calm, respectful tone.”
- Take a breather. “It’s wonderful to be able to hit the pause button, especially if it seems like the conversation is going in circles or if it’s getting really late into the night and you’re exhausted. Your partner needs to be willing and OK with taking a break too, though. Rather than just walking away in a huff, I tell my significant other that I need some time alone to think and that I’ll revisit the issue.”
- Walk the talk. “Sometimes I find it easier to talk to my partner when we’re walking outside. It feels less like a pressure cooker and since we’re in public, it’s an automatic reminder to keep our voices respectful.”
- Listen. “Sometimes when an argument heats up, each person is so eager to get their point across that they begin interrupting and not listening to what the other person has to say. It’s important to pause and engage in active listening so that you can hear what your partner is saying. It’s also helpful if you make an effort to see the issue from their perspective.”
- Be vulnerable. Be human. “If you talk about your feelings and use sentences that start with ‘I feel,’ well, that can make all the difference. If you come at them like: ‘RAWWRRRRR…. You did this bad thing!’ then of course the conversation is not going to go well.”
- Pick your battles. “Take some time –it could be anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours– to determine if something is truly worth having a fight over. For example, if you decide to mull over an issue overnight and it’s still bothering you the next day, it’s probably worth addressing it with your significant other and not letting it fester.”
- Choose your time wisely. “Finding the right time to talk is very important. It’s hard for me to have a calm conversation if an altercation starts as soon as I walk through the door after a long day at work. Please, give me at least 30 minutes to decompress! Another time that’s not good to start up a disagreement: 1am!”
- Be respectful of your partner’s needs. “We all process situations and feelings differently. When you’re ready to really get in there and talk through an issue, your partner may still need time alone to think. It can be difficult, but try to find a compromise so that both partners are able to have a productive and respectful discussion.”
I hope you found some of this information helpful and interesting. If you have any advice you’d like to share – especially if you know how to master the ‘pretty cry,’ please send me a note or leave a comment. Until then, may your days be filled with smiles. And, if there are tears, may they be of joy!
*Kudos if you noticed the similarity to a scene from Sex and the City S06 E11.