All couples will face disagreements at some point. Here’s your ultimate guide for productive fighting, that will make sure your relationship stays healthy and happy.

Don't let problems fester! Bring them up and solve them.1. Don’t let it brew.

Bring problems up immediately. If you don’t tell your partner what’s wrong but instead withdraw, get grumpy or insist nothing is wrong when clearly something is… what’s your partner supposed to do? Your partner isn’t a mind reader. If you have something to say, say it. Walking on eggshells to spare someone’s feelings only causes more stress. Be nice when you bring it up, but do let them know what you’re feeling. Bonus: when you bring things up right away, you can get the disagreement over with and get on with your lives instead of letting it hang over you like a dark cloud of hurt and resentment.

2. What we hear is not always what was said.

Your mood, perceptions and beliefs are always filtering incoming information. The tone used by the speaker and subtle body language convey information too, and they may be at odds with the words being used! The quickest example of that is, when asked what’s wrong? “Nothing” (said in a too-lighthearted tone with eyes averted). You know perfectly well “something is wrong” even though the word says it’s all good!

3. Listen with compassion and understanding.

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes as much as you can. Try to feel what your partner is feeling. PAUSE mentally when your partner speaks, and listen instead of mentally jumping ahead to your reply. Listen and ask questions until you “get” what the other person is really trying to communicate. Again, words aren’t the only way of communicating, and people often hold back telling the truth out of fear (mostly fear of rejection and ending up alone). Be compassionate to that fear. You have fears too.

4. Understand that not everyone processes things verbally.

Extroverts tend to “talk out” their problems out loud as a way of solving them. Introverts don’t. They internalize their feelings and often have a lot of trouble expressing themselves verbally when they’re upset. So if an introvert doesn’t want to talk, give them space and time to process. You cannot force the issue because it will only make the introvert clam up even more. Once they’ve gotten their emotions under control, they will be very eloquent about what’s bothering them!

5. Be patient.

Everybody makes mistakes, sometimes big ones, and everyone is dealing with life as best they can in the way they know how. The whole point of a relationship is to HELP and SUPPORT one another so don’t assume just because YOU can do something (like stand up for yourself) doesn’t mean your partner can. And vice-versa.

See your partner through loving, compassionate eyes.6. Look into their eyes.

You will see beyond the words and body language. You will see the emotion. The turmoil. The fear. The LOVE. Don’t fight without looking into each other’s eyes. That makes it impersonal. Express what you’re feeling and try to come to a mutually agreeable solution but keep that connection strong with eye contact – even when it hurts!

7. Pause to get your emotions under control.

You don’t want to say or do something you will later regret! Give yourself a minute or two to calm down a bit before responding. If you need more time, tell your partner that.

8. Own your behavior.

You, and you alone, are 100% responsible for your words and actions. A classic excuse used by people with little self control is “he made me do it!” That’s not true and they know it. Nobody can make you say awful things. Nobody can make you have affairs. Nobody can make you hit, scream or break things. No matter what you’ve done, or your partner has done, you must own your behavior. If you’re the offending party, own what you did and take measures to fix the problem.

9. Acknowledge courage.

It takes courage to face your partner and say, “Your actions hurt me.” So when your partner bravely comes to you and says that, take it as a huge gift from the universe that you’re being alerted to behavior that hurts others, instead of getting angry with your partner and getting all huffy and defensive. Admit you were wrong (that takes courage too!) and work on a solution.

10. Make it safe for your partner to approach you.

If your partner is scared to tell you the truth because of how you will react, you can’t blame them if they lie!

11. Always think in terms of “us” – not “you versus me.”

Look for the win-win and solutions that are good for both of you.

12. Look at your partner through the lenses of love.

We often tend to focus on what’s wrong with our partners rather than what’s so awesome about them. Sure, we go into relationships wearing rose-colored glasses but partners don’t change, only our perception of them does. So you can choose to fixate on what’s annoying, or you can choose to amplify what’s good. And remember, there are things about you that drive your partner crazy, whether they let you know it or not. Love each other for who you are, quirks and all.

Open, honest communication is essential in a healthy relationship. It may take a lot of time and effort to get someone comfortable enough where they will open up fully, but if you nurture that safe atmosphere of unconditional love and trust, then nothing will get swept under the rug, nothing will be left unsaid, nothing will brew in the background until it blows up in an ugly mess, and any disagreements will be resolved quickly.