Do you remember the first fight you had with your mate? . . . the person you thought was your other (or maybe even “better”) half? . . . the person you thought you were 110% compatible with and would live with forever and always in harmony and peace?
If you can’t remember the details, that’s okay: maybe you blocked it out.
And I wouldn’t blame you. For most couples who do remember it—the memory of their first fight might be amusing but not something they want to revisit or relive.
The fact is that all couples—even happy ones—experience conflict. But if you’ve never disagreed or had a “heated moment” before, your first fight can throw you for a loop and cause you to wonder if you pegged your partner right and where your relationship might be headed.
Read more to distinguish what is normal, how to handle your first rift, and sidestep future disagreements.
The Element of Surprise
Part of what makes a first fight so disruptive is the fact that neither party is usually expecting it when it occurs. New romantic relationships are generally characterized by romance, ease, excitement, and a blissful sense that you and your new partner have everything in common.
Maybe you share the same tastes, interests, values, and even politics—or you’ve somehow found a way to avoid or ignore your differences in these and other areas. In this crazy (and temporary) state, you’re not thinking about how conflict will happen at some point.
Then one day . . . boom! Your partner forgets your birthday, calls you “too sensitive”, or decides to hang out with his friends instead on Saturday night, and you’re off to the races.
Wondering what couples argue about early on? Check out this article on
Four Fights Couples Have During Their First Year of Marriage.
Solutions / How-To’s
In many ways, guidelines for your first fight are generally the same ones you’ll use throughout your relationship to navigate conflict successfully.
However, the main thing to remember in the midst of your first argument is that you have the great excuse of never having had an argument before. You should use this to your advantage since you’ll never be able to do so (at least with this person) again!
Using phrases such as . . .
>> “It’s good to know that about you.”
>> “I just assumed and I shouldn’t have.”
>> “We’re still learning a lot about each other.”
>> “You probably didn’t know how strongly I felt about it.”
>> “I’m glad I understand you a bit more now.”
. . . can help you diffuse the tension and invite some sanity back into the room. You can use this same approach—and the same phrases—after the discussion to smooth things over.
Other Ideas to Restore Calm and Connection
Assuming your fight wasn’t a deal-breaker and you wish to make up and restore order to your relationship, you may also want to:
>> Proactively go to your partner and let them know that—while this was obviously your first major disagreement—you hope to maintain their trust and respect and move forward. They may be reeling from the event as well and will feel reassured and more secure by your gesture.
>> Extend an olive branch and apologize if there are still bad vibes in the air and you feel it’s appropriate. Even if you don’t believe you were wrong, you will demonstrate maturity by initiating a truce. Don’t be the person who holds out on pride or principle.
>> If the issue is not yet resolved, suggest a time you can revisit the issue respectfully and stick with it.
>> Remind them that every partnership requires negotiation and communication about what is important to both parties; express that you look forward to learning more about what they feel strongly about.
When all is said and done and things are calm and happy between you again, raise the question of how you both want things to be handled in the future to benefit from lessons learned. The emphasis here should be on understanding one another’s boundaries, fears, and communication styles so you begin to create healthy habits in your relationship.
Do you think of “compromise” as a dirty word? Read my blog on
Meet you in the Middle: 5 Ways to Compromise in Your Marriage.
Additional Thoughts and Suggestions
Use the below list of suggestions as a primer to approach future conflict, making sure to note of the areas you’ll need to put in some extra work to be effective.
Before an argument:
>> Expect it and don’t fear it: know that conflict is part of every healthy relationship when it’s handled correctly.
>> Think about your goals and what you want to achieve by broaching a sticky topic with your partner.
>> Consider the right time to make your approach and pick a good time for them.
>> Anticipate their response and try to put yourself in their shoes.
During an argument:
>> Maintain a respectful tone and body language.
>> Do more listening than speaking.
>> Don’t accuse or criticize; simply explain.
>> Make requests instead of complaints.
>> Beware of your tendency to stonewall or become defensive.
>> Own your own stuff and try to empathize with your partner’s struggles.
>> Ask for a break if you need it, but make it short and set a time to come back together.
After an argument:
>> Apologize quickly, and ask for forgiveness when warranted.
>> Talk about how to avoid or resolve the same issue in the future.
>> Discuss lessons learned from the conflict itself and how you want to change your communication pattern in the going forward.
>> Be willing to comfort or reassure your partner in the form of affection, quality time, or other things you enjoy that will create loving feelings again and get you back on track.
If you aren’t able to resolve the issue and establish safe and respectful ways of discussing these matters, or feel that things escalate beyond where they should in your exchanges, reach out for help.
Conflict is a part of every successful relationship! The learning-a-lot-about-each-other phase is supposed to be fun but can also mean that you step on some tripwires. What’s important is that you learn to “fight fair” and navigate conflict successfully and respectfully. Like any other skill, this is something that can be learned and improved over the course of your relationship or lifelong marriage. If you would benefit for learning some of these strategies, get in touch!