Dear Carolyn: Is it normal to have fights so serious that you contemplate breaking up? My wonderful significant other and I are engaged, and we have been having some fights lately that have led me to consider putting off the wedding. I have these thoughts only when we have long, drawn-out fights about what I consider to be insignificant issues. Once we recover and talk it through together, I go right back to walking on clouds. I care deeply about my S.O. and I do envision a life together, but these thoughts might be a sign of cold feet. I guess I just want to know if this is normal.
It's normal, maybe, but so is divorce.
In the early stages of your next fight, do something different —something you select from a short list of actions that fall under the categories of kindness, good communication, self-discipline and integrity.
For example: "This feels like the beginning of another long argument about something small. I'm going to take a few minutes alone to sort out my thoughts."
Or, "I'm hearing you say (paraphrase of your S.O.'s position). Is that accurate?" —followed by listening as your S.O. clarifies, if you've gotten it wrong, or by promising to give that view some thought, if you've paraphrased it accurately. Then do give it thought, and see whether it's about a core value of yours or just about a habit of needing to be right.
Or, if it's a topic of past arguing, stop yourself from reacting as you always do, and instead ask: "This keeps coming up. What can we do to put this to rest?" Don't assume you already know.
However you choose to do it, remain calm and give yourself room to think about and identify any larger issues driving these petty fights. If your S.O. won't give you that room, then that's already a bigger deal than whatever you're fighting about.
If you do find yourself convinced this is more than just frayed nerves, then do not chicken out of these: premarital counseling, and postponing the wedding.