How To Handle Arguments In A Relationship

Every couple has had at least one argument. Disagreements between partners are bound to happen on a long enough timeline. I can say for certain that I’m not the best at dealing with arguments in relationships, but I’ve learned some useful tips that have made me better at dealing with arguments when they do arise. Here’s ten ways to handle arguments in a relationship:

1. Figure out how you handle conflicts

If you ever meet a couple that insists that they don’t argue, it’s probably because they both have the same style of dealing with conflict. If they both are accepting, even-tempered people, chances are they will have small disagreements and not much else. I’ve learned how I handle conflicts and it’s nowhere near that mature because I bail. I’m the type of guy that when upset or annoyed, I shut down verbally, physically, and emotionally. If, Hypothetically, I was dating someone who handled conflicts very emotionally, things could escalate pretty quickly because the way we handle conflicts is drastically different. With the knowledge of how you handle conflicts, you can work on changing what you think you should so that you can work on being able to disagree healthily.

2. Watch your tone

I’ve got a tone problem, and chances are that when you’re upset, you do too. It’s okay, because it’s something you can work on. When people get into conflicts,they tend to become louder, or sound a bit more hostile than they usually do. I become very monotonous and condescending, for other people maybe it’s a sudden uptick in how sarcastic they are. Whatever it is, just know that your tone has probably changed. It may be involuntary, so try to dial it back as much as possible. Of course, you can always tell your partner you’re upset and you’re sorry about your tone. I’ve found that works wonders.

3. Follow the stranger rule

Ask yourself this: Would I speak to a stranger this way? I don’t know about you, but for me,  I can only be really upset by the people I care about deeply.  The problem is that those same people can and will see me at my worst. I try to combat this by asking:  Would you talk to a stranger this way? Would you want a stranger to talk to you this way? Just keep that in mind.

4. Separate your emotions from the argument

I know for some of you this might sound as far-fetched as “Learn Urdu in five days” but this is one of the best ways to get to a place where you and your partner feel a resolution has been met. Try to separate “I feel…” from the argument and get down to the facts of the situation. “You did this, and at the time it made me feel this way is the kind of statements you should be aiming. Try to make it about what happened, not how you currently feel (even if you do still have that feeling). If you tell someone you feel a certain way currently, they’ll feel obligated to work on getting you to not feel that way PLUS figuring out how to avoid that in the future. For a lot of people that’s a tough concept to get their heads around. Now, saying that was how you felt at the time gets them focused on how to prevent it in the future, which should really be your goal.

5. Focus on purposeful communication

When you’re communicating during an argument, make sure everything you say has a purpose. That purpose should be an understanding of what the issue is, steps that can be taken to prevent the issue or minimize it, and eventually a resolution. Any other conversation will lead to a circular argument.

6. Watch your body language

Have you ever heard of Nonconscious Mimicry?  If you haven’t here’s a great description:

One striking characteristic of human social interactions is unconscious mimicry; people have a tendency to take over each other’s posture, mannerisms and behaviours without awareness. (source here)

I’m guessing that part of the reason why arguments can last FOREVER is because the body language you exhibit when arguing is being mimicked, so you get stuck in a hostility loop. The best way to get out of said loop? Smile. If we know that humans unconsciously mimic the behaviors, mannerism, and body language of others and we also know that smiling makes you happier, why not try to hack your behavior and your partner’s behavior by trying to make yourself happy? If your partner gets upset about the smiling just tell them that you’re smiling because, even though you’re arguing, you like/love them very much and it made you smile (which should be true).

7. Don’t make it Personal

When arguing, it’s easy to turn the argument from being issues based to attacks on the person. It’s a natural response and it’s hard to separate the issue from the person who you have an issue with. I try to avoid making things personal is by trying  to de-personalize any  declarative statements. Instead of saying “You did this..” I would try saying “This happened..”. It might not seem like much, but making the issue seem more focused on a behavior and less on their behavior is crucial to eventually finding a resolution.

8. Don’t dwell on the past

If you’re like most couples, you’ve probably had more than one disagreement during your relationship. Maybe some of those issues still bother you, which is fine, just be sure that when you’re arguing you’re focused on your current issue. If you want to address why your boyfriend refuses to put the seat down after a year of dating, do it another time. If you want to address the fact that your girlfriend’s cat is creepy and stares at you while you sleep, great, just don’t bring it up when you’re arguing about the fact that you forgot her birthday.

9. Don’t make it about winning

Arguments in relationships are not debates, they are the means to resolving issues that have gotten past the point of simple conversation. The thing is, no one wins in argument. Don’t try to make an argument a winnable thing, because it’s not and ultimately unhealthy.

10. Be patient

You’ve probably heard the common piece of advice on arguing “Never go to bed angry” well I’m here to tell you that it’s sort of true. I would say that it needs a little clarification, never go to bed angry, but don’t be afraid to revisit an issue if you think it’s not resolved. By all means, get your rest, but don’t rush toward a resolution because you’re tired. Call a timeout. There is nothing wrong with saying “Honey, we should discuss this tomorrow because it’s 2am and I have work tomorrow”. Make it clear that you’re still willing to talk again until the issue is resolved.

The most important takeaway you should have from this post is this:

That purpose of any argument should be an understanding of what the issue is, steps that can be taken to prevent the issue or minimizing the issue, and eventually finding a resolution.  Your goal in a relationship should not be the avoidance of arguments, but rather, the healthy resolution of arguments.

Good Luck Out There.

 photo credit: Vic

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