Love at First Fight: How Couples Can Argue Better
Many couples struggle with the reality of conflict in their relationships. One partner may feel that he or she seeks harmony all the time. No arguments or disagreements. The other partner may feel that conflict is healthy, and something to be engaged in for the benefit of the relationship.
The fact that conflict exists is not the issue. Rather, it is the intensity, frequency, and the way the conflict is managed which should be examined. Couples, who are constantly in conflict or have extremely intense, or even violent, arguments, need to recognize that this is not healthy behavior to sustain a relationship. Most importantly, it is how an argument is approached, which makes all the difference between a healthy, happy relationship, and a toxic, dysfunctional one. The following are tips about how to argue better.
- Discuss your conflict management style before an argument – in any healthy relationship, conflict is inevitable. Therefore, it is critical that each partner be aware of how the other manages conflict. You may need to step away to cool down after a heated argument. Your partner may be the type who wants to continually pursue the conflict. These competing styles may cause great tension. You may be the type to withdraw during an argument, while your partner may want to escalate things. By understanding each other’s style before an argument, it can make the conflict feel more manageable. In addition, establish a set of argument ground rules that take into account each person’s preferences.
- Treat your partner with respect always. Remember before, during and after this argument you are partners and have to engage in a way that focuses on building positive interpersonal interactions. Count to 10 or take a break before you do or say anything that would disrespect your partner or do something you wouldn’t do in a loving and connected moment. These unkind actions, while they may be forgiven, are not forgotten and impact the trust and safety of a relationship.
- Evaluate the argument – after the raw and intense feelings have settled down, it is important for you and your partner to discuss the issues which sparked the argument, and how you all can resolve them. Many couples never discuss the argument and never settle the issues. Rather, they just simmer, until the next opportunity causes it to blow back up. You can also discuss how to argue in a way that doesn’t feel vicious or harmful and have some actionable sets after reviewing the argument.
- Seek the third way – oftentimes, in an argument, you are most concerned about winning. However, when dealing with a partner, there is no true victory if you always “win.” Focus on how to find a third way, one that reflects a little bit of both partners giving something up, in service to the relationship. When feelings are so intense, it may be difficult to think about the third way, but consider how important it is for the health of the relationship especially in Step #2 when you are evaluating the argument and looking for steps forward.
Always focus on disagreeing in a more relational way – You will likely never stop disagreeing, but you can work on ways to make it easier and easier. Look to make each argument an improvement on the last – be aware of growth and change in yourself and your partner and support each other’s positive risks to do better for the relationship.SHARE: