Handled wisely, conflict can strengthen a relationship. If you find yourself in a tumultuous relationship full or bickering and fighting, don't despair. According to Barton Goldsmith, PhD, in "Top 10 Tools to Avoid Ugly Arguments," when you argue constructively it can be a pathway to growth and problem solving. By following a few guidelines, you can get your rocky relationship with your girlfriend back on the road to peace and serenity.
Practice reflective listening skills. Reflective listening simply means that you repeat back what your girlfriend is saying to you. As an example, suppose that your girlfriend is upset that you were late picking her up for dinner. Instead of defending yourself, offering excuses or, worse, attacking her back, simply reflect what she is saying back to her. Use a statement such as, "You seem upset that I was late" or "It sounds like you're worried that we'll miss the movie." Reflective listening clarifies and verifies that you heard the other person's complaint , rather than sharing your own thoughts or viewpoints. Reflective listening can open the way for her to move away from the conflict.
Tackle problems with a "we" approach. In the heat of a conflict it may seem that this is a "you or me" situation, but try asking questions like "How can we work this out?" and "What can we do to solve this?"
Negotiate a solution. Don't take an all-or-nothing approach. One of the worst things you can do for the relationship is to have an attitude of "my way or no way." Compromise on solutions to disagreements and problems. If she wants to go to the movies, but you want to go to the ball park, suggest that you go to the movies one night, and the ball park another. Compromise lets her know that you see her needs and feelings as important.
Acknowledge her feelings. "I can see that you feel hurt" or "You sound disappointed" are statements that encourage further communication and let your girlfriend know that you understand what she is feeling. It's important to recognize that feelings are neither right or wrong, as well as to realize that everyone has a right to them.
Take time outs. If the conflict seems to be getting out of hand, it's fine to say "I need some space" or "Let's take some time right now. We can talk about this later." Allow her the right to her space as well. If she is feeling hurt or angry, it's best to allow her time to cool off before trying to work through the problem.
Consider your own behavior and be willing to examine how it affects your girlfriend and your relationship. Encourage her to do the same. Many times in relationships, people become preoccupied with how the other person is acting or reacting. If we focus on our partners more than ourselves, we are bound to miss the forest for the trees.
Decide if this is the right relationship for you. If you have tried all of the above techniques, yet nothing seems to help you and your girlfriend stop fighting, it may be time to consider ending the relationship. Remember that ending a relationship doesn't mean that you failed. Sometimes two people are just not compatible.