Rule: Be honest, even when it hurts
Make no mistake—honesty is key in a relationship. If you do need to bring up an issue, make sure that you say it gently instead of bluntly letting out your harsh complaints. “The best relationships are absolutely honest with each other, but not brutal,” says Feldhahn. Just like you would think carefully about how to give constructive criticism to a coworker or friend, use kind words with your partner. You’ll still be able to let your feelings out without hurting your loved one in the process, especially if you avoid these phrases that make arguments worse.
Rule: The partner who’s wrong should apologize first
Even if you’re absolutely sure that you’re right during a fight with your partner, don’t sit around waiting for an apology. Be the bigger person, and say sorry for your part in the argument. That way, you can both move on instead of stewing in unresolved anger, says Dr. Greer. If you’re always the one apologizing in every fight, follow up by asking if your partner feels sorry, too. “Pose the question and engage your partner’s response,” she says. “If they say they aren’t sorry, prompt them about what may need to change, because you need to be able to trust he or she won’t do this again.” Here are some ways you accidentally ruin your apologies.
Rule: Never go to bed mad
Supposedly, ending an argument to get some sleep will leave you both fuming instead of making productive steps to fix the problem. In reality, though, happy couples actually do hit the sack before resolving a fight, says Feldhahn. “When you have two exhausted, angry, upset people trying to duke it out at one in the morning, nothing good will come from that,” she says. The key is that people in strong relationships don’t pretend it never happened, she says. Instead, they agree to revisit the fight the next day—even if that means laughing about how silly it was—when they both have clearer heads. Here’s what you should never do after a fight.