By: Lisa M. Hayes

Any parent, especially a parent of a teenager knows one thing.  Your sanity, and relationship with your child depends on wisely picking your battles.  A clean room might be less important than a curfew.  What they wear might be less important than who they hang out with.  If you go to the mat over everything you might win an occasional battle, but you won’t win the war.   Your child will quit listening to you when something is really important, because the fighting about everything becomes background noise.

Someone once told me the rule of thumb with a teenager is the five year rule.  Will this thing that seems like a very big deal to me right now matter in five years?  In that framework you’re able to sort through the chaos of parenting and get to the stuff that makes a difference.  Easy?  No.  Important?  Most definitely.  Frankly, it’s a good rule for any relationship you hope to have five years from now.

It always amazes me what couples will fight about.  Conflict in a relationship steals your relationship satisfaction and ultimately kills love.  Yet people will fight about the most ridiculous stuff.  Most relationship experts would say that kind of fighting is masking deeper issues in a relationship and sometimes that’s true.  However, more often it’s not.

So, why would someone be willing to give up a slice of happiness to fight about who takes the garbage out?  Because they are making the garbage disposal mean something important.

“He doesn’t help me.”

“He takes me for granted.”

“I’m all alone in this household and I know it because he won’t even take the garbage out.”

Meaning is entirely personal.  We choose it every time and how we assign meaning frames the thoughts that create our experience.  However, if you give something meaning that makes it worth fighting about you are in fact giving up a slice of happiness.  You get to decide.

positive-1Now don’t get me wrong.  Some things are in fact worth fighting for or about.  Most things aren’t and in the daily grind of being in relationship it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important.

Most of the time fighting is a habit.  What we know about human behavior is this.  If you really want change in the behavior of another, appreciation and positive reinforcement always works best.

Positive reinforcement works best when training puppies, small children, and husbands.  (Tweetable!)

Fighting over things that you want changed isn’t nearly as effective AND it steals your happiness.

So, the next time you’re about to engage in the habit of fighting, nagging, or complaining, ask yourself this question.  “Will this matter five years from now?”  If the answer is yes, check yourself and the meaning you’re giving it.

Between two people where love really lives, very few things rise to the level of that kind of important.  True love isn’t blind.  It’s just very, very forgiving.