The number one factor that has the power to keep our fights with loved ones from being a waste of time is our willingness to fight. Anyone who enters an argument feeling as though they’ve been dragged into it unnecessarily and with the mindset that they have so many better things they could be doing is going to bring so much resentment, resistance, and defensiveness to the encounter that will technically shut down a fight before it even begins. The conflict-avoider disregards the potential value of going through and resolving a fight and instead, mistakes it for something to “rise above;” but what good is rising above when it means leaving the one you love on the ground?

Unfortunately, preventing/avoiding the fight is the ultimate (and only) goal of anyone who considers fighting to be a waste of time and that right there is the whole problem. Anyone whose main focus is to simply stop a fight is not doing the work necessary to ensure that the fight ends with appropriate and healthy resolve; they are focused only on stopping it, period. This is the time to start watching the clock as the resister makes one effort after another to dodge what is perceived as wasteful communication instead of using this energy to actually slow down and listen for what just might be very useful and connecting information; THIS is what ends up wasting time.

Ending a fight and shutting down a fight are two entirely different things. Shutting down a loved one’s need to address a problem or hurt (by rolling eyes, walking away, and talking about what a waste of time the conversation is) will only bury the problem temporarily for it to just burst at a later time with even more hurt and fury. A similarly devastating result is likely to be the complete disconnect and dissolve of the relationship as space continues to go unmade for that loved one’s needs/emotions. Shutting down a fight is really just the action of delaying it (“making the bad go away”) with the illusion that all is well; an ignorant approach and one that creates wedges in and damage to our relationships very easily.

Ending a fight (aka resolving it) is the only true way to make it go away without residual negative consequences. This can only be achieved with a genuine willingness to engage the fight, a curiosity and dedication to uncover the reasons and meaning behind the fight and a belief that there is a worthwhile conclusion to be made about the whole mess. Resolving a fight starts with the willing participation of all parties in what they must view as a mission to shift perspectives, clear up errors, put missing pieces back together, and to create new and healthier paths they can walk together going forward. Tip: Believe it or not, fighting with intention, purpose, and a desire for better outcomes is a lot easier (and less time-consuming) than fighting about whether or not a fight should or should not be occurring.

A fight with the one you love is a mission to be completed, a code to be cracked, a calling to respond to, a test of relationship strength and care; how you choose to show up and participate is what will dictate whether or not it’s a waste of time.