Fighting with your S.O. and constantly exchanging verbal barbs is a quick way to a short, unhappy relationship. Get beyond that.

Relationships are all about communication.

Deep bonds don’t form from nothing. They’re a result of a continuing exchange of ideas, emotions, and synergistic thinking. Even people who don’t share a common language can find ways to meaningfully interact.

If communicating is central to forming relationships, why is it so damn hard? The fact is, human minds are so unique that finding common ground can be like putting together a puzzle without a picture of the finished product.

That’s why long-term relationships are so special. When you spend enough time with someone, you can start to see how your personalities fit together harmoniously – or not so harmoniously. Sometimes you can see that the puzzle pieces fit, but struggle to put them together.

Ready to get beyond the drama? Here are some ideas for solving communication problems with your significant other.

Aim to understand.

One of the most frustrating moments in a fight is when one or both people aren’t listening to the other. It’s impossible to solve a disagreement if you’re not trying to see your partner’s point of view.

Your goal during an argument should be to understand your partner better and find some common ground. Learning how your partner thinks and feels is the key to a closer bond.

Too often, we treat the situation as if the goal is winning. Once you’re in that mindset, you both end up losers.

Solution: When your partner is talking during a fight, concentrate on what they’re saying and not how you want to respond. No matter how inane or illogical you think their argument is, try to listen before you say anything.

Let your guard down.

Getting defensive is a natural response if your partner brings up a difficult topic.

Does anyone really feel comfortable discussing something difficult, even with the person they love?

But defensiveness can close you off from the conversation. Instead of hearing what your partner is saying, you’ll only hear your skewed interpretation of what they really mean. If your husband tells you, “You forgot to take out the trash again,” you might hear, “You’re so irresponsible and don’t do enough around the house.”

Solution: Don’t project your own feelings onto what your partner is saying. It’s not fair to assume you know what they’re saying, and it can only lead to more discord.

When your partner is talking, listen to only what they’re saying. Get away from what you’re feeling. If you need to, repeat it back to them so you clearly understand. Then, calmly respond to the statement they made or question they asked.

Don’t use “all or nothing” language.

When trying to win an argument, you want to present the strongest case possible. But you have to stick to the facts. If you exaggerate or overstate something, it’s hard for the other person to take you seriously.

It’s also unfair to generalize your partner’s behavior as all-around bad. Behavior exists on a gray spectrum, and living in a black-and-white world during a fight reduces their actions to a trope.

Plus, you shouldn’t be trying to “win” anyway. This should be an exchange of ideas with the intent to understand.

Solution: Don’t use words like “always” and “never” in an argument. It’s easy for your significant other to argue against that, because there’s always an exception. Those types of words can and will make them make feel defensive. 

Solving communication problems is about helping each other understand, not forcing each other into semantic battles.

Don’t wait until the last minute.

Communicating with your significant other is like taking out the trash. If you wait until the bag is overfilled, it’s harder to get it out the container. You find yourself wishing you’d dealt with it sooner.

When you get upset at your partner, bring it up that day. If you wait, the issue can fester and rot like the trash in my analogy. The sooner you broach the issue, the less upset you’ll be.

Solution: Bringing problems is hard to do and easy to avoid. Practice saying something beforehand so you feel more confident in your message.

You can try writing a script before you talk to your partner, or ask a friend how you could better phrase the issue. After doing this a few times, you’ll see that mentioning something in the beginning is much easier than waiting until you’re ready to explode.

Avoid name-calling.

Some people assume it doesn’t matter what they say in the heat of the moment as long as they apologize for it later. But apologies are like knee replacements: they temporarily fix the problem but don’t erase the damage.

Name-calling can be tempting when you’re in a screaming match, but doing so can lead to hurt feelings and resentment that isn’t so temporary. Your partner might never really forget the day you called her a stupid bitch.

This does nothing when it comes to solving communication problems.

Solution: If staying cool during a fight is too hard, take a walk alone and collect your thoughts. If your partner name-calls, don’t try to one up their comment. Use that moment to explain that you don’t appreciate what they said, or find it helpful.

It’s never easy to work through these issues. However, if you want a better relationship, solving communication problems with your partner is vital. Otherwise, you end up in a situation where you end up with someone you hate — or you break up to get away from the problems.

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It’s hard to say no, but sometimes you have to for reasons. You’re still a good person.

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How many times have you said yes to someone — and then wished you hadn’t?

We all want to say no when we feel overwhelmed, or really don’t want to do something. And yet, we find ourselves saying yes.

It’s even harder to say no when you are facing a request from a loved one.

Sometimes, you need to say no to protect your sanity, your health, and your time. If you have an addiction to saying yes, it’s time to break it. We’ll show you how.

Concepts

  • Some of the reasons it’s difficult to say no to loved ones.
  • Concerns about how you look to others, and why that makes it hard to say no.
  • The problems with saying yes just to avoid conflict.
  • Ways that saying yes all the time can actually hurt you — and your relationships.
  • The important role saying no has in self-care.
  • Dealing with saying no to your kids and being a parent.
  • Practical tips for how to say no to loved ones without offending them.
  • Strategies for buying yourself time and space to say no.

This week’s “do nows” focus on how you can get a better handle on your situation. We offer tips on how to say no, and strategies for practicing saying no. You can make an effort this week to stop saying yes to everything. Stick with your priorities and say no to things that will just add stress to your life.

Our listener question deals with the thorny issue of making accommodations in a relationship. Should you say yes to avoid being dumped? Or is it time to make serious changes to your relationship so you aren’t being steamrolled all the time?

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Resources

Why is it so hard to say no?

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Disagreeing with your parents is just fine. Do it in a way that doesn’t make them see you as a perpetual child.

When you’re raising a child, arguments seem pointless.

Why should anyone have to suffer through a squabble about why their 14-year-old can’t stay out until 2 a.m.?

When you spend a good decade or so having the kinds of disagreements that make you want to scream, it’s easy to develop a dismissive attitude toward your child’s opinions.

But as parents age and children become adults, the lines start to blur.

All of a sudden, the child starts to make sense – maybe even a little more sense than the parent is comfortable with. How should that transition be handled?

Most of these conversations revolve around how the parent in question can accept their child as a bona fide adult.

But what about from the other perspective? The adult child’s role in a disagreement is just as important – and just as tricky to navigate.

If you’re ready to start parsing parental conflicts in a more effective way, read ahead for some tips on how to make it happen.

Stay calm.

There’s a reason why “Keep calm and carry on” has become a viral phrase in the last few years. Staying calm is a vital tool – one that precious few people use correctly.

It won’t help your case to yell or get emotional, even if you’re in the right. Staying calm will help you to present clear, focused arguments and avoid getting sidetracked.

Try to be the bigger person. Even if your parents are calling you names, trying to avoid the conversation or refusing to acknowledge your point of view. It doesn’t help to get worked up. If anything, it will just feed into the idea that you’re not mature enough.

When disagreeing with your parents, you need to stay on the higher ground.

Avoid all or nothing statements.

Avoid all or nothing phrases like “you always” or “you never” when arguing. Accusing your mom or dad of doing something 100% of the time is a sure-fire way to put them on the defensive.

Instead, bring up specific examples and use words like “sometimes” or “occasionally.”

When you use “all or nothing” thinking, you cut yourself off from seeing their point of view. You turn your parents into caricatures of themselves instead of well-rounded people who make mistakes.

This approach is important in any argument, but especially during a time where both parties are trying to develop a more nuanced view of the other.

Take a step back if you find yourself doing this when disagreeing with your parents. An argument can quickly turn from a productive disagreement to a petty squabble when one side or the other goes down the rabbit hole of dramatic statements and accusatory language.

Stay focused.

Family matters come with decades of baggage that hasn’t been fully unpacked. It’s easy to get sidetracked during a heated argument and think about every perceived injustice you’ve ever suffered.

Stay focused on what you’re talking about. If you’re complaining about how they forgot to ask about your recent work promotion, don’t bring up the time in seventh grade when they missed your school play.

Part of the difficulty of disagreeing with your parents is convincing them to see you as a fellow adult instead of a kid. If you bring up something from your childhood, accomplishing that is going to be very difficult.

It’s frustrating to stay on track when you feel like you have more ammo in your bag, but piling on doesn’t validate an argument. It’s only makes the other person more defensive and less sympathetic to what you’re saying.

Pick your battles.

You can’t disagree on everything if you want a happy relationship with your parents. Even though it might hurt your jaw to grit those teeth, you’ll be happier in the long run if you let some things go.

For example, if your parents eat red meat every day and you’re a staunch vegetarian, don’t bring up the horrors of factory farming when you’re visiting for Christmas. No one wants to be insulted in their own house, and it’s probably not a stand worth taking.

If they criticize or make fun of your vegetarianism, then it’s time to speak up. In general, try to notice the difference between defending your sovereignty as an adult and looking for an excuse to pick a fight.

Create and enforce boundaries.

Remember when you were a teenager and how fiercely you protected your bedroom? No one could go in without your consent. Doing so was a violation of privacy.

That’s how your mind should be. No one can make you upset or force you into a discussion without you agreeing to it. For example, if you don’t want your parents to criticize your parenting skills, shut that topic down as soon as it comes up.

Setting those mental and emotional boundaries will make it easier to stop questions from turning into arguments.

If your mom disagrees with your decision not to breastfeed your child, simply say, “This is my decision, and I’m not going to discuss it with you further.”

If she tries to keep poking you, repeat that sentence. Eventually, she’ll get the message. Parents generally mean well, but they won’t know they’ve stepped over a line unless that line is clearly and consistently drawn.

This strategy is a larger representation of how to disagree with your parents in general. Make it a habit to be respectful of yourself and your parent’s opinions, and things will get easier.

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How well do you resolve differences in your relationship? Talaat and Tai McNeely share their story of conflict and resolution and offer great relationship advice about communication.

Once in a while, we present Adulting.tv LIVE! Subscribe on YouTube to hear about future events, and share your questions about or suggestions for our next discussions!

Harlan L. Landes and Miranda Marquit welcome Tai and Talaat McNeely. The guests open up about their struggle with communication about finances early in their relationship, and how they overcame obstacles as a couple. Their story is inspiring, and the guests are candid in their sharing of their mistakes as well as the lessons they’ve learned.

Communication is the most important piece of any relationship, and in this episode, our guests share the tools that have helped them — and others they’ve coached — survive and thrive within a relationship.

This episode is essential watching for anyone in a relationship, and the tools and tips are effective for resolving more than differences about just money.

Talaat and Tai McNeely, “America’s #1 Money Couple,” are financial educators that are on a mission to get individuals and couples on the same page financially, and to experience the joys of financial freedom. They are co-authors of Money Talks: The Ultimate Couple’s Guide To Communicating About Money. They are also the hosts of the top rated podcast, The His and Her Money Show. Talaat and Tai McNeely (His and Her Money) have been featured in numerous publications such as T.D. Jakes Show, FoxNews.com, MSN.com, Essence, and Business Insider.

Watch the video above or listen to just the audio by using the player below.

Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteven Flato
Music bybensound.com

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Can’t we all just get along? Unfortunately, with family, this isn’t always what happens. Here’s what you need to know about managing conflicts with family.

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The holiday season just ended. How did you survive?

Many families dread the holidays because of family disagreements. These past holidays might have been especially trying, thanks to the election.

And, even though you’ve navigated the holidays, there’s a good chance you still need to see family members at a major gathering. Sunday dinner? Grandma’s 80th birthday party? A family reunion in the summer?

At some point you’re going to have more conflicts with family. This episode will help you get through it.

Concepts

  • How emotion and identity impact the way we talk about difficult subjects.
  • The difficulty of seeing family when you spend more time with friends who might agree with you more.
  • Concerns about how “being right” and a “team” mentality can make it hard to talk about thorny issues.
  • Tips for setting the stage for civil and polite conversation rather than conflicts with family.
  • Ideas for defusing a difficult “conflicts with family” situation when it arises.
  • The importance of avoiding big discussions on social media.
  • The reality of our interconnected world and how it contributes to conflicts with family.

Listen to our “do nows” for ideas on what you can do to take action to avoid or help defuse conflicts with family. We also answer a listener question about religious tensions in family settings.

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Resources

Don’t let politics spoil your family holiday
Families dread holidays after election
Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteve Stewart
Music bybensound.com

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We all have arguments with the people we love. But that doesn’t mean it’s ok to fight dirty. It’s much better if you fight fair.

There’s nothing quite so disorienting as fighting with someone you love.

It’s easy to imagine a civil disagreement in the abstract, but actually remaining calm and collected in the heat of the moment is a tall order.

Even the best relationships break down under the weight of petty disagreements. No matter if everything else about a partnership is in good shape, communicating poorly during a fight is a recipe for disaster. Navigating conflict is just part of the deal when you decide to link your life with someone else.

As obvious as that might sound, it’s an issue that multitudes of people struggle with.

How can you fight fair while still asserting yourself?

Stay on message.

Getting off track is easy during an argument. Emotions are running high, and it’s easy to start bringing up every single thing your partner has done wrong. Don’t.

You shouldn’t pile on during a disagreement. Stick to the discussion at hand no matter how mad you feel, and try to encourage your partner to do the same.

Bringing up past issues only derails the conversation and makes it harder to move forward. It also creates an element of distrust, a seed that can destroy even the strongest relationship. If your partner feels you can’t truly forgive them for something they’ve done, how can they trust you going forward?

Keep your emotions in check.

The more you restrain yourself during an argument the less work it will take to mend hurt feelings. It’s never ok to name-call, yell, or throw things at your partner.

Part of loving someone is being respectful at all times – especially when you’re fighting.

Keep your guilt and shame in check. If the argument is about something you did, don’t let self-pity take over. Negative thoughts only make you feel worse about yourself, which isn’t a productive attitude to have during a fight.

The argument or discussion you’re having is a separate incident. It shouldn’t represent you or your partner as a whole. Learn to understand the difference and you’ll feel better when disagreements crop up and be better equipped to fight fair.

If you feel emotional, it’s ok to ask for a few minutes to cool down. Write down your thoughts in a journal or take deep breaths can help you decompress, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Taking time to settle down can be the difference between a fight that’s resolved quickly and one that drags on for days.

Assume the best.

Often, disagreements start because one person makes an unfair assumption about their partner. For example, an old boss of mine told me how every morning his partner left his dresser drawers open. It drove him crazy that his partner couldn’t bother to do something so simple.

He mentioned it once in passing, and his partner said he didn’t close them because he was worried the noise from the squeaky drawers would wake him up. It turns out that when he thought his partner was being lazy, he was actually being considerate.

Even if you’re sure your partner did something wrong, start the conversation with a non-accusatory tone. You might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Plus, your partner will appreciate you giving them the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst.

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes.

Feeling defensive and ego-driven is normal during an argument, but it can hinder real resolution. Instead of trying to defend your actions, try to understand your partner’s perspective. This is essential if you want to fight fair.

For example, if you promised to register the car, forgot, and your partner ended up getting a ticket, imagine what he or she is thinking. They might be wondering if you’re truly dependable, and whether or not they can count on you when it matters.

Now imagine you’re on the other end of that argument. Maybe your partner was swamped with work, and registering the car got lost in the shuffle of appointments and assignments. Maybe they misunderstood who was responsible for getting it done.

Being more considerate of your partner during a conflict will only lead to a stronger connection and clearer communication. Plus, embracing someone else’s perspective will make you more humble.

Own your actions.

One of the best ways to resolve an argument quickly is to recognize when you’ve done something wrong – instead of trying to deflect blame and criticism.

The quicker you own up to what you did, whether it’s burning the cookies or forgetting to walk the dogs, the better off you’ll be. Fighting fair involves being humble in the face of your mistakes.

Consider going to a couple’s therapist if you or your spouse are having trouble understanding or following these guidelines. An objective third party might help you see your communication problems and figure out how to argue more productively.

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It’s time to dive deep. Can you have a major discussion without major drama?

At some point in a relationship, you move beyond the excitement of starting something new and into the reality that you might be “serious.”

When things get serious with your S.O., it’s time to discuss what’s important to you. It’s no fun to get deep into a committed relationship and realize that none of the most important things in your life line up with what your partner wants.

From kids to money to sex to values to priorities to religion, you should know what the other person wants — and you should know whether or not those important things are dealbreakers for you.

What matters to you?

Before you start grilling your SO about what’s important, you should have a good idea of what matters to you. I was young enough when I married that I hadn’t seriously thought about some issues. I was following a script, and even though there were a few things I knew about myself, I didn’t really know myself.

Later, when things bugged me, I didn’t know how to articulate them in a healthy way because I wasn’t entirely sure about who I was or what I really wanted. (That’s part of what happens when you follow someone else’s script.)

Before you start probing someone else, examine yourself. Learn who you are, and know what you love about yourself. Once you are clear about who you are and what you value, and what matters most to you, it’s time to discuss the Big Things with your S.O.

Don’t be judgy.

We all like our way best. However, not everyone is the same. Don’t be judgy if your partner prefers to stay at home instead of traveling somewhere new. And what happens if your S.O. doesn’t want kids? That’s not an invitation to assume some sort of emotional (or other) deficiency.

If you’re going to get deep and discuss what’s important with your partner, you need to ensure that you are both in a safe space. That means you accept that your partner’s values and priorities might be a little different than yours. And you don’t get personal about it.

And you don’t get personal about it. Wanting different things, to a different degree, doesn’t make someone bad or wrong. When discussing what matters, remember that you want a measure of grace for your own views. Respect is essential in any relationship. If you can’t discuss these hard, vital issues with respect, that’s a relationship red flag right there.

How much do you already know?

In many cases, you might already have a pretty good idea of where your partner stands on a lot of issues. You might have already discussed politics or you might be open about sex. Perhaps you’ve attended church with your SO or you can see how s/he spends (or doesn’t) money.

Pay attention. As your relationship develops, there are some things that become fairly obvious. You can even make a small comment if you want to start a deeper discussion:

  • “I love that you call your mom once a week. Family seems important to you. How often do you go for a visit?”
  • “You are so great with my nephew. Do you think you want kids at some point?”
  • “You seem really busy with the Bushwackers. I can tell that you are passionate about volunteering. What are some of your favorite causes?”
  • “I feel a little cash-strapped right now. What’s your favorite frugal activity?”

These are all ways you can ease into a conversation about the things that matter most in your life. A small observation can turn into a great discussion about what you hope for in life, as well as what matters to you right now.

You want to discuss what’s important with your SO because you want a good feel for whether or not you really can be true partners with this person you’re getting serious about. In some cases, with some things that might be less important, a relationship is about compromise. You’ll always need to do a little of that.

In some cases, with some things that might be less important, a relationship is about compromise. You’ll always need to do a little of that. It’s the way it is when you commit to share your life with someone.

When is it time to gtfo?

However, there are some BIG issues that aren’t ready-made for compromise or long-term partnership. You and your S.O. might agree that saving for retirement is vital, but what if you have fundamental disagreements over what that retirement should look like? It doesn’t do much good to save for retirement together if one of you plans to sell the house and travel the world while the other is excited to have the mortgage paid off so s/he can settle down “rent free” and be a homebody.

And very few relationships have solid staying power when one person wants lots of children while the other isn’t even sure if one is a good idea. These are the kinds of fundamental differences that lead to resentment in a relationship. You’re better off breaking it off for both your sakes than trying to make it work in the name of preserving passion.

What do you think? What are some of the dealbreakers in your relationships? And how do you talk about them with your SO?

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