How to Stop Having the Same Fight Before It Ends Your Relationship

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Whether you've been together with your partner for one year or 10+, chances are there's something you each do that really bugs the other. Hopefully it's something small. (Like he always leaves his empty coffee mug on the back of the toilet.) But ... it could be something very, very big. Like maybe he wants to go to church and you don't. Or he's pro-life and you're like, "Uh. No." And then what?

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Research shows that a whopping 69 percent of issues that life partners face can't ever be worked out. That's right. No compromise. No concession. Whatever major thorn is in your side just keeps digging in deeper.

"In my opinion, these irresolvable issues are based on individual difference in personalities and needs," says Venus Rouhani, LMFT, a psychotherapist who specializes in relationship, couples, and family counseling and the author of The No-No List: How to Spot Mr. Wrong So You Can Find Mr. Right.

Some problems truly are non-negotiable -- things that we simply can't tolerate in another person, or traits that "trigger" us in some way. For instance, says Rouhani, "someone who grew up in a chaotic family with no consistency who has to control every aspect of her life will get triggered badly by an impulsive, 'whatever goes' personality."

These non-negotiable arguments are "the ones that cause gridlock in a relationship," Rouhani says. "And the majority of relationships that struggle with the non-negotiable are the ones that break up or continue as a miserable relationship."

But!

A big portion of perpetual problems can be conquered, Rouhani believes.

Here's how to stop 'em before they derail your LTR:

Step 1. Stop trying to change your partner. All that nagging isn't helping, huh? So stop already! "If you try to change another person, you're telling them that he or she is somehow defective or not good enough," Rouhani points out. "That puts you on unequal ground, and that is a bad place for a relationship to stand."

Step 2. Accept your partner as is. Instead of seeing your differences as "right or "wrong," explains Rouhani, simply view them as different perspectives. Tomato, to-mah-to.

"Nobody wants to be wrong, and defending your ground is what keeps the conflict going," she says. Once your differences normalize, then you'll be more prone to compromise. 

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Step 3. Pick a strategy that works for you. Once you've stopped trying to get your partner to do X -- and accepted the fact that his doing X isn't wrong, it's just different than what you want -- you need to put those choices into action.

In other words: "You need to be willing to either ignore without judgment or embrace wholeheartedly," Rouhani says. And once you do, you might realize that whatever was previously stuck in your craw wasn't such a big deal. And may even have some benefits.

But let's back up a sec. What if you and your SO are dealing with one of those aforementioned "non-negotiable" issues? Maybe he thinks gambling is totally okay, and you're like, Uh, you just lost our life savings and that is not f***g okay. Or, who knows, maybe it's an issue that seems small on paper but enormous in your heart.

What then?

Look at the characteristic in question and try to figure out why it's stirring up such huge emotion in you, advises Rouhani. Then ask yourself honestly: "If my partner has this characteristic for the rest of our life together, can I tolerate it, without ever trying to change it?"

If your answer is no, you're dealing with a deal breaker.

"Unfortunately, I have no magical solution to these issues," Rouhani admits. Long-term therapy might help make them more tolerable, but the reality is, she adds, "these are the ones that usually cause breakups."

same fight relationship
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