Everyone gets upset once in a while. Even in healthy relationships, people disagree and argue. Time and time again, it has been shown that the way couples argue can determine whether or not they are likely to separate. What steps can you take to ensure that you the small outbursts don’t turn into full-blown fights and how to do make sure that when you do argue, you are fighting fair.
Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. They are between two individuals who each bring a set of issues, values, emotional difficulties, expectations and communication styles into the mix. While many people believe that when they are talking to their partner, they are communicating, if you’re not able to talk to them about the deeper underlying issues, it can make or break a relationship.
By learning how to both speak to your partner and, more importantly, knowing when listen, you can ensure that your relationship stays on track.
Practice Effective Communication
- Practice Good Listening Skills: When you’re upset, it’s normal to feel like you have to defend yourself and often, you have a multitude of things swirling around in your head. As hard as it may be, it often helps to stop and really, really listen to what your partner is saying. Practicing a communication technique called reflection (repeating back what your partner has just said to you) can help ensure that you understand what your partner needs you to. It shouldn’t however, be done in a mocking or patronizing tone.
- Be honest about your feelings: By practicing honesty, we often make ourselves vulnerable to your partner. This can be especially difficult during a disagreement but by being as open and honest about what you are feeling, and what your needs are, you are far more likely to actually get your needs met. As much as we wish it were so, your partners cannot read your mind. Tell them what you need, openly and honestly.
- Stay focused on the here and now: Sometimes, when a simple discussion, morphs into a disagreement and then a full-blown argument, it’s easy to bring up past arguments and behaviours to try to make your point. It can seem satisfying to get that cheap shot in or bring up what happened 5 years ago but it will not help in the long run. Try to keep your argument on topic, be respectful and stay away from the words “you always” and “you never.”
- Pay attention to your emotions: It’s hard to stay focused and rational when you feel that your emotions are getting the better of you. If you feel that you are becoming too emotionally charged to reasonably make yourself heard and to convey what your needs are and be willing to listen to your partner, it may be worthwhile to excuse yourself for a moment to gather yourself before continuing the argument. This should not be seen as running away, rather as a way to regroup, refocus and recharge before resuming the process.
- Be ready to cede an argument: One of the most important steps in improving communication with your partner is knowing when to pick your battles. When I was young, my mother always asked me whether it’s better to right or to be happy. Sound advice on all levels. It’s exhausting to argue over every little thing. Sometimes, it really doesn’t matter who arrived first or whose responsibility it was to close the garage. Sometimes, conceding to something, even when you feel you are right, will get you farther in the long run, because instead of fighting, you can have that quiet romantic dinner with your partner.
- Put yourself in your partner’s shoes: It’s easy to get caught up in our own needs and wants and perhaps the most difficult part of being in a relationship is getting rid of the selfishness and putting your partner first.
- Learn how to compromise: We try to teach our children that they need to learn to share and to compromise. It’s still good advice as adults. It may be painful at first, but it will pay off in the end, as long as one spouse isn’t always the one to give in.
- Own what’s yours: Taking responsibility for what’s yours is a strength, not a weakness. Sharing the responsibility of a conflict can go a long way in diffusing the situation and it sets a good example and helps lead you to a mutual understanding and solution.
- Know your triggers: We all have things that push our buttons and often, our triggers come from patterns in our childhood. By learning what your triggers are and what your partner’s triggers are, you can both try to take steps to respect the triggers and avoid them.
- Be aware of body language: Trying to maintain eye contact, keep a neutral body stance and tone of voice. Using positive touch when possible, such as laying your hand on their arm or sitting next to them, can diffuse a tense situation.
- Play nice: Even when you are in a disagreement, it’s critical that you both play nice. Be respectful, genuine, avoid name-calling and insults. Talk about specific behaviours, rather than personality issues. Use “I” statements, talk about your feelings, and remember to breathe, take a moment if you need to and to choose your timing wisely. And as difficult as it may be, stay calm.
Being a good communicator is difficult and nobody can be a perfect communicator all the time. Better communication, however, starts with one person making the effort to improve, which often encourages the other to come along for the ride. If you are getting stuck in the same arguments, consider relationship counselling as a way of giving both you and your partner the support you need to communicate better and feel emotionally closer. You don’t need to figure it all out by yourself.
- Avoid Arguing, Just be Calm (jayrando.wordpress.com)
- 10 Tips for Fighting Fair (my.psychologytoday.com)
- I Don’t Feel Emotionally Supported (simplycomplicatedlove.wordpress.com)
- Relationship Skills (Counseling) (matchsoul.wordpress.com)
- How To Deal With Arguments In A Relationship..♂ ♀ (mindbodypeppa.wordpress.com)
- Emotional Affairs: Where Do You Draw The Line (therapystew.com)