Choose Your Battles: Fighting Less in Relationships

“A more peaceful way to live is to decide consciously which battles are worth fighting and which are better left alone.” ~Richard Carlson

Have you ever been in a relationship that seemed more like work than fun? Where every day you seemed to have a new issue to discuss?

Maybe it had to do with little miscommunications, or an ongoing dispute, or a difference of opinion that regularly complicated your daily interactions.

Whatever it was, you always found yourself wanting to hash things out to get everything back to normal.

Except that was normal—conflict, friction, and disagreement; you just held out hope that maybe it could change.

I had a friendship like this a few years back. We really got each other, and that’s a big part of why we grew close.

But we also got on each other’s nerves on a near-daily basis. In retrospect, I see that our two personalities came together to create something toxic.

It was like the perfect storm of insecurities and and egos colliding; our collapse may have always been a matter of time. But I also realize we both created drama where it didn’t need to be.

We made everything an issue.

I’ve since learned that healthy relationships require a little discernment as to what’s a problem and what’s just small stuff; and that sometimes, the instinct to sweat all that small stuff is a sign of a bigger problem—that the relationship may just not be right.

Not sure why so much annoys you? There could be any number of reasons. One of these problems may seem familiar, and one of these solutions may help.

Problem 1:

You’re harboring resentment or anger, but instead of expressing what you really feel, you pick at the little things.

The Solution:

Take some time to get to the root of your feelings. What’s really bothering you? Sure, those unwashed dishes and slow email responses are annoying, but what’s the bigger issue?

Do you fear the person doesn’t respect you? Do their actions seem to confirm your fear that you are somehow unworthy? Are you holding a grudge over something big that happened two years ago?

Ask yourself if there’s a bigger conversation you need to have—something you need to say that you didn’t, or perhaps something you need to work out in your own head.

Once you release the weight of the big underlying issue, you won’t feel so angered by the little surface-level annoyances that occur in every relationship.

Problem 2:

You’re dealing with stresses unrelated to the relationship, so you vent that stress where you easily can: on the people closest to you.

The Solution:

Ask yourself: What’s causing me to feel irritable so frequently—in what ways am I overextended and unbalanced, and what do I need to do to change that?

It might mean allowing yourself more space to meet your own needs (instead of always being there for other people). It might mean taking care of yourself a little better, mentally, emotionally, and physically, so you don’t feel drained so frequently.

Or it might have to do with the amount of time you work. Perhaps you’re pushing yourself too hard, pressuring yourself to do and be more, which makes you feel edgy and anxious.

Once you address your own issues, you won’t create as many in your relationship; in this way prioritizing your needs helps both you and your connections.

Problem 3:

You have an idealized vision of what love and friendship should look like, so you fight whenever something happens that doesn’t fit within that vision.

The Solution:

Ask yourself if you could meet your own standards for love.

The little things that are bothering you—have you done those same things before? How would you like someone to respond to you when you make those little mistakes?

This isn’t the same as allowing someone to treat your poorly. This is recognizing when those little things really aren’t signs of that, but rather an indication that someone else is human and doing the best they can.

If you flip it around, you can focus more on giving the kind of love you want to receive than bemoaning the love you think you’re not getting—which, incidentally, may help you get more of that back.

Problem 4:

All of your relationships involve constant drama. This is the only way you know how to be in a relationship of any kind, and you may even look for problems when there’s nothing to fight about.

The Solution:

If you grew up around chaos, you may actually feel more secure when you’re yelling, getting yelled at, and making up. It might even feel uncomfortable to have a day without any friction.

Challenge yourself to sit with your feelings so you can learn to minimize your internal drama. When you work on releasing your anxious energy, you’ll be able to explore what relationships can look and feel like with out it.

You may only experience this for short lengths of time at first, but if you work at it every day, that time will increase. You’ll slowly start feeling more secure in enjoying the other person’s company, and less of a need to model this relationship after others that hinged around fighting.

If the issue is more about liking the excitement that drama creates, focus on creating excitement in other ways: do something new and adventurous (on your own or together). Make yourself feel alive without needing to fight someone to feel it.

Problem 5:

You’re in a relationship that’s not good for you, but you feel too scared to leave, so instead you stay and express irritation over all kinds of minor annoyances.

The Solution:

This is the hard one—where it’s not about choosing your battles, but about recognizing it’s time to stop fighting the truth.

It won’t be easy, but you need to be honest with yourself about whether or not you really want to be in this relationship. It might help to ask yourself: If I knew I could find something more fulfilling by walking away, would I? Do I feel like this relationship (or friendship) leads to more pain than joy?

A lot of people won’t even ask themselves these questions, because once you know you’re compromising yourself to stay with a sure/safe thing, you only have two options: continue doing that and feel even worse about yourself, or find the strength to walk away and open yourself up to something better.

This is by no means easy to do, but if you can be honest with yourself, then you can move to the second part: Tell someone else.

Tell a friend that you need help and support to find the courage to walk away. You might not have the strength or trust that this is the right decision, but someone else who loves you will help you get through the scary part, if you’re willing to let them.

These are some of the top reasons we turn relationships into war zones. There will be times when the other people in our lives do these same things. Hopefully we can inspire them to be more self-aware by modeling what that looks like.

Of course, there may be times when we have a legitimate issue that we need to address—when it truly isn’t “small stuff.” If we’ve chosen our battles wisely it will be much easier to work through these tough times together.

Photo by JumpyMonky

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She started the site after struggling with depression, bulimia, c-PTSD, and toxic shame so she could recycle her former pain into something useful and inspire others do the same. She recently created the Breaking Barriers to Self-Care eCourse to help people overcome internal blocks to meeting their needs—so they can feel their best, be their best, and live their best possible life. If you’re ready to start thriving instead of merely surviving, you can learn more and get instant access here.

See a typo or inaccuracy? Please contact us so we can fix it!